Numbers 2 Assignment (1102)

Use your knowledge of numbers to explore the history of Trans-Atlantic Slavery.

Slavery is a vast subject to cover for any history course, and its practice varies. You may be familiar with chattel slavery, or the slave system that treats slaves as low-cost manual laborers, investing as little as possible in order to gain as much profit from the slaves agricultural outputs. This is largely the type of slavery practiced in the Americas. Still, consider that slavery is but one form of what we call coerced labor. Spanish law and the Catholic religion forbade Spaniards from owning Native Americans, but the tax requirements that Spaniards created for the Native Americans were so burdensome that many Native Americans performed labor that equalled slavery.

As well, the type of slavery that developed in the Americas differed from slavery in many other parts of the world. What I call service slavery amounted to using slaves according to the slaves abilities. If a slave was good in math, he might become your accountant. If a slave was a good sailor, that slave might be an officer in your navy. The most powerful slave perhaps of all time was Zheng He, who sailed as “Admiral of the Oceans,” commanding the Ming Dynasty’s navy. For many around the world in the period up to 1800, slavery was just a property relationship, not a defined pattern of treatment or work.

None of this background exculpates the practitioners of slavery. In every age there have been historical voices protesting the inhumanity of slavery. Still, it’s useful to see that how slavery was practiced in the Americas is distinctive when compared with China or Africa.

Studying slavery through numbers can be useful. It allows you to grasp the big picture of slavery across four continents and four centuries. Nevertheless, there’s s risk of losing the personal picture of slavery that comes from working with first person accounts. Please keep this challenge in mind when working with the Slavery website. All these numbers were people (slaves, sailers, slavers, and merchants), who had families, felt pain and joy, and largely did not see their lives caught up in a centuries-long fight over human rights. The colossal atrocity that was the slave trade can only be approximated with numbers, yet these numbers help us understand the past more fully.

Learning goals

Students will:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to navigate around the Trans-Atlantic Slavery Database

  2. Interrogate the database for answers to basic research questions.

  3. Analyze and draw conclusions based on information gained from queries to the database.

  4. Answer questions about information in the database.

Click on “Voyages Datase”

Next click on “Search the Voyages Database”