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234 × 156 mm
272 pages
25 illustrations
05 Aug 2013

Crossings Africa, the Americas, and the Atlantic Slave Trade James Walvin

From the mid-fifteenth century to the close of the nineteenth, it is estimated that more than 12 million people from Africa were forced onto slave ships and transported to the Americas; at least 11 million survived the journey. Even after Britain banned the importation of African slaves in its colonies in 1807, and the u.s. followed suit in 1808, more than 3 million Africans made the terrible transit across the Atlantic. Slavery itself was not finally ended until Brazilian emancipation in 1888.

Crossings explores the broad sweep of slavery across the Atlantic world, revealing the extraordinary efforts to end it as well as the remarkable degree to which slavery and the slave trade managed to survive, even to the present day. In the most authoritative history of the entire slave trade to date, James Walvin returns the emphasis of the story to its origins in Africa. It was here that the trade originated, here that the terrible ordeal of slaves began, and here that the scars remain today. Journeying across the ocean, Crossings also explores the history of Portugese, French and British colonies, as well as its development in the usa, and shows how Brazilian slavery was central to the development of the slave trade itself: that country tested techniques and methods for trading and slavery that were successfully exported to the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas in the following centuries.

This book examines some vital unanswered questions, such as how did a system which the Western world had come to regard with distaste manage to survive for so long? And why were the British – so fundamental in developing and perfecting the slave trade – so prominent in its eradication? This groundbreaking study makes use of major new developments in research, rendering them available to a broad readership for the first time and offering a new understanding of one of the most important, and tragic, episodes in world history.

To read James Walvin's blog post Why Won't Slavery Go Away please click here.

‘[a] vigorous narrative of a bloody thread in modern history . . .  [Walvin] also deals with moral and political questions that still trouble historians, from the complicity of African chiefs in establishing the slave trade, the toxic sea journeys, the long, brutalising survival of slavery and its first, sudden abolition.’ – The Times

‘Playing to his strengths as an engaging, enthusiastic, and well-informed historian of slavery, Walvin extends his prolific output in a book that offers a sweeping overview of transatlantic slavery and a reflective commentary on its continuing significance. The range and extent of scholarly publication on slavery in the Atlantic world and the pace with which that research is disseminated raise the need for an account, such as Crossings, that draws selectively on the secondary literature to provide an up-do-date synthesis of the findings of recent historians on plantation slavery.’ – Journal of American History

‘Walvin’s unflinching commitment to tracing out the transatlantic slave trade’s most paradoxical implications exemplifies the excellence of Crossings as a brief introduction for students and general readers. He has capably distilled a voluminous body of recent research into a highly coherent account that nevertheless manages to convey a satisfyingly complex view of its subject. Indeed, I see a place for Crossings in the reading lists for my own classes on the subject – an accolade that many other college and university historians will surely also bestow upon this book.’ – Reviews in History

‘a remarkable achievement. Crossings is an important book that gives much greater prominence to those African perspectives that have so often been neglected in the past. It is a masterful act of historical imagination, based on meticulous research and written with great flair and sensitivity. It will be essential reading for all those who wish to understand the role that Africans played in the rise and fall of the Atlantic slave system.’ – Family & Community History

‘Historians of the US South may not get everything they want, but Walvin’s book will doubtless provide them, as well as the general public, with a broader and more inclusive view of the history of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.’ – The Historian

‘The incomparable James Walvin has done it again: he has crafted a beautifully written and deeply informed single volume history of the Atlantic slave trade and its consequences on three continents.  This book is full of fresh ideas and astounding detail; it is at once great storytelling, punctuated with real people and voices, and an unblinking analysis of numerous great questions and paradoxes about the power of slavery in creating the Atlantic world over four centuries.’ – David W. Blight, Professor of American History at Yale University and Director of the Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation

‘In writing Crossings James Walvin exposes the human tragedy embodied in the Atlantic slave trade. He also reveals once again his own remarkable talent for making publicly accessible advances in historical research on transatlantic slavery.’  – David Richardson, Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation and Professor of Economic History at the University of Hull, England, co-author of the Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (2010)

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James Walvin is one of the foremost historians of the slave trade. The author of over 30 books, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of York and visiting fellow at Yale University. He lives in York, UK.


1  Africa and Africans

2  Slave Trading on the Coast

3  Slave Ships, Cargoes and Sailors

4  The Sea

5  Mutinies and Revolts

6  Landfall

7  Resistance

8  Chasing the Slave Ships: Abolition and After

9  The Durable Institution: Slavery after Abolition

10  Then and Now: Slavery in the Modern World



Photo Acknowledgements