Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade David Eltis, David Richardson, David W. Blight, David Brion Davis

The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History
Publication date:
12 Mar 2015
Yale University Press
336 pages: 305 x 229mm
189 color maps; 5 b-w + 36 color illus.; 61 color graphs

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Between 1501 and 1867, the transatlantic slave trade claimed an estimated 12.5 million Africans and involved almost every country with an Atlantic coastline. In this extraordinary book, two leading historians have created the first comprehensive, up-to-date atlas on this 350-year history of kidnapping and coercion. It features nearly 200 maps, especially created for the volume, that explore every detail of the African slave traffic to the New World. The atlas is based on an online database ( with records on nearly 35,000 slaving voyages—roughly 80 percent of all such voyages ever made. Using maps, David Eltis and David Richardson show which nations participated in the slave trade, where the ships involved were outfitted, where the captives boarded ship, and where they were landed in the Americas, as well as the experience of the transatlantic voyage and the geographic dimensions of the eventual abolition of the traffic. Accompanying the maps are illustrations and contemporary literary selections, including poems, letters, and diary entries, intended to enhance readers’ understanding of the human story underlying the trade from its inception to its end.

This groundbreaking work provides the fullest possible picture of the extent and inhumanity of one of the largest forced migrations in history.

David Eltis is Emeritus Robert W. Woodruff Professor at Emory University. David Richardson is the former director of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, and professor of economic history, University of Hull, England. Together, the authors coedited Extending the Frontiers: Essays on the New Transatlantic Slave Trade Database.

"A remarkable resource….The charts raise as many questions as they answer; this is entirely the point."—James Delbourgo, Times Higher Education

“This groundbreaking work provides the fullest possible picture of the extent and inhumanity of one of the largest forced migrations in History.”—The Global Journal

"Beautifully produced, with period images and contemporary quotations, this is in a work of commemoration, but the best memorial, the authors clearly feel, is the historic truth." Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman

“…..a ground-breaking project: the Atlas will be indispensable for all those interested in the slave trade.”—Jane Webster, Times Literary Supplement

“We are indebted to Eltis and Richardson for opening up new evidence and pointing towards future projects. The importance of this book transcends the story of the slave trade itself.”—James Walvin, Family & Community History Vol 14.2

"A brilliant rendition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. This atlas is essential to the study of chattel slavery.  No student of slavery should be without it."—Ira Berlin, University of Maryland

"These magnificent maps—all 189—document almost every conceivable aspect of one of the world's worst crimes. An epic and gruesome drama receives a fitting representation. A superb contribution to scholarship."—Philip D. Morgan, Johns Hopkins University

"Sophisticated and erudite, the maps and the introductions to them offer the best and most accessible interpretations on various aspects of the transatlantic slave trade. Full of insights and new findings, the strong analysis and evidence presented will create a permanent distinguished stamp on the book, confirming it as a groundbreaking text for both beginners and advanced students."—Toyin Falola, University of Texas at Austin

"The Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade is a dramatic step forward in the cartographic representation of the slave trade, tracing the flow of captives in much greater detail and with more precision than ever before. This atlas also systematically links African ports to American ports and hinterland African states to the ports from which their slaves were exported: an important step and a reminder that a great deal of the slave trade began deep in Africa."—John Thornton, author of Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800

"This is a highly original work and represents a major contribution to historical analysis. There are no comparable works on this topic."—Stanley Engerman, University of Rochester

“This is an important project that will add greatly to our understanding about the major, long-term patterns of trade between Africa and the Americas, help to map the African Diaspora, and place the transatlantic slave trade in larger world history context.”—Steve Behrendt, Victoria University of Wellington

“This is a major work of enormous consequence, without parallel in the literature, deeply researched, highly original, and of immeasurable value.”—Harm J. de Blij, Michigan State University

"One of the most ambitious books of this--or any other--publishing season: a fascinating, horrifying, beautifully put-together atlas of the transatlantic slave trade."—Very Short List

"A monumental chronicle of this historical tragedy, one that records some 35,000 individual slaving voyages, roughly 80 percent of those made. The authors remind us that only 4 percent of the captives disembarked in what became the United States, while 95 percent arrived in the Caribbean and South America. Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade is a human document as well as a rigorous accounting. It is filled with moving poems, photographs, letters and diary entries."—Dwight Garner, New York Times

"The Atlas is the Rosetta Stone of slave historiography, making legible through maps and charts the mass of data that, at long last, allows us to grapple with and interpret the strange and intricate history of the slave trade in African human beings to the New World between 1501 and 1866. If there were Pulitzer Prizes for databases, this would win, hands down."—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University

Winner of the 2010 R.R. Hawkins Award, given by the Association of American Publishers

Winner of the PROSE Award for Excellence in Single Volume Reference/Humanities and Social Sciences catergory, as given by the Association of American Publishers

Received Honorable Mention for the 2011 Dartmouth Medal for outstanding reference

"Literary selections and paintings/illustrations are included to broaden readers' understanding of the human story behind the maps and charted statistics."—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Honorable Mention in the General Non-Fiction category of the 2010 Los Angeles Book Festival

Winner of the 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Awards in the non-fiction category

Recipient of the 2011 San Francisco Book Festival Honorable Mention in History

"This marvelous book will change how people think of the slave trade. It deserves every accolade it is likely to get."—Nicolas van de Walle, Foreign Affairs

Received Honorable Mention in the 2011 New York Book Festival Non-Fiction Category

". . . a beautifully produced volume . . . The whole is topped and tailed by two excellent essays: a masterly introduction by David Brion Davis and a rousing afterword by David Blight. The end result of all this international, scholarly effort is a remarkable book which is not only a pleasure to have on one's shelves, but a model of scholarly and publishing activity. . . . Here, and in their varied (and complex) work as individual scholars, Eltis and Richardson have revealed themselves to be among the most imaginative, influential and distinguished historians of their generation."—James Walvin, International Journal of Maritime History