Historian David Eltis of Emory University and co-author David Richardson of the University of Hull, England, have published a new book, Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, that focuses on where slave ships began their voyages, where the ships went in Africa, and where the ships landed in the Americas.
The atlas derives from an online database (http://www.slavevoyages.org) that launched from Emory in 2008 to much acclaim from historians and researchers worldwide.
“What you get from this book is a sense of the direct links in the slave trade,” says Eltis. “It totally overturns the idea that the vessel sets out for slaves, goes down a thousand miles of coastline, eventually gets a full cargo, then turns and crosses the Atlantic and sells essentially a group of people who perhaps can’t communicate with each other.” Historians had long painted such a picture.
“We’re showing that particular ports in Africa had strong connections with particular ports and therefore areas in the Americas,” says Eltis. “And it’s very easy to see those connections the way the data is presented in the form of maps.” Eltis calls the technique used to demonstrate those connections “pathographics,” or sweeping arrows showing the movement and numbers of people from specific place to specific place.