Slave Traffic in the Age of Abolition:
Puerto Rico, West Africa, and the Non-Hispanic Caribbean, 1815-1859

Joseph C. Dorsey

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"Impressive. . . . Some of the book's most salient contributions are the conclusions about the origins of the slaves, the relative importance of the Caribbean trade vis-a-vis the African trade, comparisons between Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the inner workings of the slave trade. In all these areas the author offers fresh perspectives based on new materials."--Luis Martinez-Fernandez, Rutgers University

Drawing on archival sources from six countries, Joseph Dorsey examines the role of Puerto Rico in slave acquisitions after the traffic in slaves was outlawed. He delineates the differences between Puerto Rican and non-Puerto Rican traffic, from procurement in West Africa to influx into the Caribbean, and he scrutinizes the tactics--including inter-Caribbean traffic and conflation of African and Creole identities--by which Puerto Rican interest groups avoided abolitionist scrutiny. He also identifies the extent to which Spain supported these operations.

Dorsey reconstructs the slave trade in Puerto Rico, devoting special attention to the maritime logistics of slave acquisitions--in particular the West African corridors and the nuances of inter-Caribbean assistance. He examines the evidence for the true origins of these slave populations and considers forces beyond European and American politics that influenced the flow of slaves. He explains the complex conditions of the Upper Guinea coast and illustrates the impact of social, political, and economic forces endemic to West African affairs on the Puerto Rican slave market.

Dorsey's meticulous pursuit of evidence unearths the routes and institutions that brought thousands of slaves from West Africa into the eastern Caribbean, turning them into "creoles" in official records. In a radical departure from present Puerto Rican historiography, he demonstrates that Puerto Rico was an active participant in the illegal slave traffic and exerted a great deal of control over numerous components of the acquisition process, without exclusive dependence on the larger slave-trading polities such as Cuba and Brazil.

Joseph C. Dorsey is associate professor of history and African-American studies at Purdue University.

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" Dorsey's book has the rare merit of attempting to integrate all phases of the movement of people from Africa to the Americas, albeit for a forty-five year period for one Caribbean island."--American Historical Review
--American Historical Review

"Sheds new light on the subject by piecing together fragmented and contradictory data scattered in Portuguese, English, French, and Dutch colonial archives." "An important contribution both to Caribbean and African studies, as well as to the scholarship on slavery."
--H-LatAM

"The book offers a convincing picture of clandestine slave commerce in the Age of Abolition." "An important lesson to learn from this well-researched and well-written book is that the interpretation of the slave trade has to be carried out in an international framework is order to make sense."
--International Journal of Maritime History

"Convincingly argues that the British focus upon West Africa and Cuba, combined with the long absence of any diplomatic presence on the smaller island, allowed Puerto Ricans and foreign merchants to develop a trade network with the non-Hispanic Caribbean and West Africa."
--HAHR

"Dorsey's excellent and detailed study of Puerto Rico deftly illustrates the international dimensions of the Caribbean slave trade during the nineteenth century. The major historiographical contribution of the book is its analysis of the reexport trade to Puerto Rico from the Lesser Antilles."
--The International History Review

"Based on Spanish, British, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Portuguese, United States, and Dutch Caribbean archives, this book revises the accepted historiography of Puerto Rico's engagement with the Atlantic world of commerce and slavery. It is a welcome addition to the historical literature on the non-Anglophone Caribbean during the abolitionist era."
--JILAS - Journal of Iberian and Latin Amer. Studies

"Very well researched and argued." "Required reading for those interested in slavery in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean."
--Slavery and Abolition

"A work of sophisticated and careful scholarship. Shedding light on an important aspect of Puerto Rican and Caribbean history, Dorsey has also made a dynamic contribution to our knowledge of the rise and fall of African slavery in the Atlantic world."
--New West Indian Guide

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