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Using the Transatlantic Slave Database to shed more light on a historiographical debate

Citation: Cushion, Stephen Using the Transatlantic Slave Database to shed more light on a historiographical debate. In: Society for Caribbean Studies (UK) Annual Conference, 2013, University of Warwick. (Submitted)


Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0

In 1907, Hubert Aimes wrote that the British brought 10,700 slaves into Havana during the first 5 months of their occupation in 1762-63. The figure of 10,000 slaves is still widely accepted and each repetition gives it greater credence and, despite Aimes's own assertion to the contrary, has led many authors the argue that British occupation was a turning point in the economic development of the island. However, the official correspondence from British expedition's commander, Lord Albermarle, clearly states that one John Kennion, a slave-trader from Liverpool, would have the "sole licence and liberty to bring Negroes into the Island of Cuba during the present war". This licence allowed for the import of 2000 slaves. This begs the question: why should Lord Albermarle give a licence and then allow four times as many slaves to be imported illegally, particularly as his administration was continuing the Spanish practice of charging an import tax of 40 dollars per slave? The information now available from the Transatlantic Slave Database, drawing on data from libraries and archives around the Atlantic world, has opened new possibilities for understanding the transatlantic slave trade by providing both information on individual slaving voyages and estimates of the numbers actually transported across the Atlantic. This paper re-examines primary source material in both the British National Archive at Kew and the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla, then compares that information with the data in the Transatlantic Slave Database. However, the effect of the British invasion cannot be circumscribed by the actual period of occupation, as the Spanish authorities then imported many more slaves to rebuild the defences destroyed by the British attack. A comparison between primary sources and the figures from the database can cast new light on these developments as well. As a result of these calculations, a new assessment of the full economic impact of the British occupation of Havana can be made.

Creators: Cushion, Stephen and
Subjects: History
Latin American Studies
Keywords: Slave numbers, Havana, British Occupation
Divisions: Institute of Latin American Studies


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