Slavery and Slave trading Scholarship in the Indian Ocean: Some Lessons from the Atlantic

David Eltis
Emory University

Only in the last five years has a significant scholarly effort gotten off the ground to pull together systematic information on the age-old traffic in people in the Indian Ocean World. By contrast, usable databases on slave trafficking in the Atlantic date at least from Philip Curtin’s foundational work, The Atlantic Slave Trade A Census (1969), and in some senses culminated in the 2020 version of with its details of 63,000 transatlantic and intra-American slaving ventures. Scholars have already made available rich data on segments of the IOW slave trade, but the current overall big picture is about as developed now as was its Atlantic counterpart in the 1950s. Given that at least two major consolidating and synthesizing efforts are getting underway for IOW slave trading – one based in Europe and one in North America – it may be useful to review progress. Perhaps there is still time to lay out and avoid some of the problems and missteps that have slowed progress in the Atlantic arena.