The Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery: primary sources

For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were victims of the transatlantic slave trade. And on 25th March every year, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade offers the opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system, while also raising awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.

At the Library we have access to a range of digital resources that give you access to original primary source material from archives around the world that allow you to find out more about the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the victims of slavery. These are a few that you might like to explore:

Slavery: supporters and abolitionists, 1675-1865
(also known as Slavery Through Time: from Enslavers to Abolitionists, 1675-1865)

This collection explores and offers varying perspectives on the explosive debate around the Transatlantic Slave Trade during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The documents, through a combination of correspondence, pamphlets, memoirs, and statistics, track both the proliferation of British power and the enslavement it was built upon, as well as the moral critiques that arose as a reaction to the horrific practice. The focus of the documents coalesces around how enslavement and trade manifested in the West Indies.

Black Abolitionist Papers

This primary source collection details the extensive work of African Americans to abolish slavery in the United States prior to the Civil War. Covering the period 1830-1865, the collection presents the international impact of African American activism against slavery, in the writings of the activists themselves. Black Abolitionist Papers represents a huge effort by a scholarly team, headed by C. Peter Ripley and George E. Carter, who recognized that African Americans were a pivotal and persuasive force in the 19th-century anti-slavery movement. The Library has access to this database through the ProQuest 350 deal, our access currently runs until 31st July 2023.

Introduction to U.S. History: Slavery in America

This resource documents key aspects of the history of slavery in America from its origins in Africa to its abolition, including materials on the slave trade, plantation life, emancipation, pro-slavery and anti-slavery arguments, the religious views on slavery, etc. This digital collection of over 600 documents in 75,000 pages selected by Vernon Burton and Troy Smith from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and drawn from the Sabin collection and other Gale sources.

Caribbean Newspapers, 1718-1876

Caribbean Newspapers, 1718-1876, a comprehensive primary resource from the American Antiquarian Society, is the largest online collection of 18th- and 19th-century newspapers published in the region. It is a valuable resource for studying the development of Western society and international relations within this important group of islands. Featuring more than 140 newspapers from 22 islands this unique resource is essential for researching colonial history, the Atlantic slave trade, international commerce, New World slavery and U.S. relations with the region, as far back as the early 18th century.

Southern Life, Slavery, and the Civil War

Part of ProQuest History Vault this category consists of 8 modules: Slavery and the Law; Slavery in Antebellum Southern Industries; records focused on the Slave trade and other legal issues pertaining to slavery; three modules of Southern Life and African American History, 1775-1915, Plantations Records; a module on the Civil War entitled “Confederate Military Manuscripts and Records of Union Generals and the Union Army”; and Reconstruction and Military Government after the Civil War. Slavery and the Law features petitions on race, slavery, and free blacks that were submitted to state legislatures and county courthouses between 1775 and 1867. Southern Plantation Records document the far-reaching impact of plantations on both the American South and the nation. Plantation records are both business records and personal papers because the plantation was both the business and the home for plantation owners. The Confederate Military Manuscripts module brings together unique collections that are being digitized for the first time. Reconstruction and Military Government after the Civil War features correspondence of the U.S. Army’s Office of Civil Affairs. The Library has access to this resource through the ProQuest 350 deal, our access currently runs until 31st July 2023.

You can access these resources and more via our Digital Primary Source guide.
Note that access is for current University of Edinburgh students and staff only.

For more information on the International Day of Remembrance see the United Nations: Outreach Programme on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery.

Caroline Stirling – Academic Support Librarian for Schools of History, Classics and Archaeology and Social and Political Science.

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