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The Slave Trade: History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870 Paperback – 18 Sep 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; New edition edition (18 Sept. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333731476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333731475
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 4.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 470,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Hugh Thomas's The Slave Trade takes a big-picture view of New World slavery in its international context. The Portuguese and Spanish who first came to Africa, he writes, arrived in search of gold. They found it, but they also found social systems in which the ransom, buying, and selling of human beings had long been established. These systems had existed in European antiquity, and now they were revived when, shortly after making contact with Africa, the European nations began to establish colonies on the other side of the Atlantic; the horrible traffic continued well into the 19th century. Thomas mines vast archives and previously published histories to make this sweeping and remarkably useful synthesis.

Review

John Thornton

"The New York Times Book Review"

Well researched...engaging...a fine narrative history.



Barbara Stanton

"Detroit Free Press"

Thomas has taken a sprawling subject and turned it into a disciplined, compelling narrative.



Robert B. Edgerton

"National Review"

Hugh Thomas has given us the most comprehensive account of the Atlantic Slave Trade ever written.



Hardy Green

"Business Week"

Masterly....With its uncompromising show of erudition drawn from a wealth of original and secondary sources, "The Slave Trade" is an indispensable account of a repugnant institution.



Gregory Kane

Baltimore "Sun"

"The Slave Trade" is more than just a history of the transatlantic peddling of human flesh. It is the story, in microcosm, of four continents: Europe, Africa, North America, and South America. Thomas weaves a tale of merchants and slaves; of diplomats and clergymen; of philosophers, statesmen, abolitionists, and rulers that readers will find surprisingly engaging.



John Thornton "The New York Times Book Review" Well researched...engaging...a fine narrative history.

Robert B. Edgerton "National Review" Hugh Thomas has given us the most comprehensive account of the Atlantic Slave Trade ever written.

Gregory Kane Baltimore "Sun""The Slave Trade" is more than just a history of the transatlantic peddling of human flesh. It is the story, in microcosm, of four continents: Europe, Africa, North America, and South America. Thomas weaves a tale of merchants and slaves; of diplomats and clergymen; of philosophers, statesmen, abolitionists, and rulers that readers will find surprisingly engaging.

Hardy Green "Business Week" Masterly....With its uncompromising show of erudition drawn from a wealth of original and secondary sources, "The Slave Trade" is an indispensable account of a repugnant institution.

Barbara Stanton "Detroit Free Press" Thomas has taken a sprawling subject and turned it into a disciplined, compelling narrative.

Gregory Kane Baltimore "Sun" "The Slave Trade" is more than just a history of the transatlantic peddling of human flesh. It is the story, in microcosm, of four continents: Europe, Africa, North America, and South America. Thomas weaves a tale of merchants and slaves; of diplomats and clergymen; of philosophers, statesmen, abolitionists, and rulers that readers will find surprisingly engaging. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is probably the best book I have read on the slave trade. Hugh Thomas explores the origins and development of this deplorable enterprise with candour and insight. It is a well researched work, which is not couched in "high" academic speak, making it quite easy to read.
As the author chronicles the trade, sometimes through the words and actions of the principal players, one becomes aware of the moral ambiguities that characterised the trade from the start. By avoiding sweeping generalisations, he dispassionately addresses the mindsets of the slaving and enslaved peoples. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants an overview of the slave trade.
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This is a long book: a brick of 900 pages describing and discussing the transatlantic slave trade from the Portuguese start in the mid-15th century to the illegal period in the mid 19th century.
One has to be very interested in history to dwell into Hugh Thomas' immensely detailed historical description of the period. But if one is, this book is a true gold-mine: details about specific shipments and harbours; the lifes of slaves, traders and others who suffered (or benefitted) from the trade; the economic consequences and financial matters; the political and legal implications and debates on abolition. All come to life with an amazing sense of detail! I particularly enjoyed reading the background that got the horrible trade starting, as well as the long debate on its abolition, for which there were already people arguing in the 15th century.
Also, the hypocrisies of the entire trade come to life well in the descriptions, like the arguments of the African slaves being better off as slaves in the Americas than free men in Africa.
Such hypocritical statements are surely what one can learn from today, where there seems to be no less hypocrisy.
Great book, but can be a heavy read if you are only marginally interested in the transatlantic slave trade.
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Format: Paperback
I think Hugh Thomas has done his work well here, maintining an objectivity that few authors achieve when approaching this sometimes sensetive subject. The facts and factors involved in the African trade in slaves and its subsequent exploitaion by Europeans has been documented without bias and served to the interested reader in the plainest of language.
Although the volume is a thick one, it's a must for those who have a vested or general interest in this poignant period of history. Once I picked it up I found it difficult to put down again. I hope whoever buys and reads it finds this publication equally informative.
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Format: Paperback
When I bought this book I was looking for a good introduction to a massive subject. Numerous plates suggested it was not aimed at specialists. After three months I feel only relief to have completed the tedious and difficult task of reading it. Looking now at Amazon it is the low star reviews with which I agree.
The author, an eminent historian, has clearly done a great deal of research [perhaps with the help of assistants]. However, he has not arranged his findings in a way that this reader could follow. A vast amount of detail is presented. Facts trivial and significant, pertinent and peripheral are thrown together. Paragraphs, pages and indeed whole chapters are no more than annotated lists of ports, merchants and shipowners. Primary sources are quoted at length and far too frequently; it comes over as a cut and paste job. Statistics pop up from time to time throughout the text, but are so random as to carry little weight. A few well-presented tables [with sources appended] would have made a world of difference.
For all the detail there seemed no human dimension to the narrative, at any rate from the point of view of the slave. Some critics have rightly suggested that this is a history of the slave trader. The book provides copious information on individuals who built or bought ships, those who captained them and those who invested in the organization of their voyages. Space is given too to the individuals who were bribed and the politicians who were complicit. It is true that the forces ranged against the trade are discussed and described. But the slaves themselves - it is though they are just the cargo, the freight.
Academic historians have pointed to other deficiencies.
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I needed information on a specific period in British slaving history and this book certainly provided most of the background I was after, but its world-wide examination of the subject, coupled with the span of history involved, inevitably meant that the author was unable to cover any one period or any one jurisdiction to the depth that I would have liked. As an overview of the subject, the book is excellent, but as a source of research on a specific area within this enormous subject, it failed to meet my personal needs.
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