Academic journal article African Studies Review

Atlas of Slavery

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Atlas of Slavery

Article excerpt

James Walvin. Atlas of Slavery. Harlow, U.K.: Pearson Longman, 2006. xiv + 146. Maps. Chronology. Further Reading. Index. $18.95. Paper.

James Walvin is a very good and prolific historian. He has written or edited about thirty books, about half of them on slavery or on the history of peoples of African descent. He writes well and has an excellent grasp of his subject matter. This book contains eighty-seven maps as well as a short history of slavery and the slave trade. It would be very useful as a supplementary reading for courses on the slave trade and is a book some scholars will want on their shelves.

That said, I would like to comment on its limitations. First, despite the fact that the United States and Great Britain provide excellent source materials and serve as the principal market for this book, it is too heavily tilted toward American slavery and the Atlantic slave trade. There are maps dealing with classical antiquity, the Muslim world, and the Indian Ocean, but these do not cover the diversity of slaveries. The treatment of Africa is itself superficial and does not adequately show the complexity of the slave trade, which penetrated different parts of Africa at different times. Second, the atlas has been compiled on the cheap; almost every map is taken from some other English-language publication and many of them are inadequate or duplicate each other. Some of the maps do not really deal with slavery (for example, the two maps from classical antiquity). Two maps of the Chesapeake at different periods give a very incomplete picture of what changed between those periods and how that related to slavery. The map of Islamic expansion does not try to give a picture of slave origins or note the variety of patterns of slave use.

There are, however, some valuable maps of slave routes; a rather simple one, for example, traces diverse trade routes out of Africa in the early modern period. …

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