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Visualizing the Middle Passage: The Brooks and the Reality of Ship Crowding in the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/03/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Issue number4
Volume49
Number of pages33
Pages (from-to)533-565
Publication statusPublished
Early online date1/03/19
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Crowding on slave ships was much more severe than historians have recognized, worsening in the nineteenth century during the illegal phase of the traffic. An analysis of numerous illustrations of slave vessels created by then-contemporary artists, in conjunction with new data, demonstrates that the 1789 diagram of the British slave ship Brooks—the most iconic of these illustrations—fails to capture the degree to which enslaved people were crowded on the Brooks, as well as on most other British slaving vessels of the eighteenth century. Five other images of slave ships sailing under different national colors in different eras further reveal the realities of ship crowding in different periods. The most accurate representation of ship-board conditions in the eighteenth-century slave trade is in the paintings of the French slave ship Marie-Séraphique.

Bibliographic note

This is a preprint, or manuscript version and that the article has been accepted for publication in Journal of Interdisciplinary History