The Slave Ship: A Human History


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project is a history of the Atlantic slave ship, focusing on British and American vessels during the years 1700-1807/1808. I examine the material evolution of the ship as a specialized piece of technology, then treat its decks as the stages for four essential social dramas: first, the relationship between slave ship captain and crew; second, between the crew and the enslaved; third, among the (multi-ethnic) enslaved; and finally, between pro- and anti-slavery writers and activists as they sought to represent the slave ship and the middle passage for a metropolitan reading public. By concentrating on the slave ship and the experience of transoceanic transport, on the voyage itself as a social and cultural process, I present a human history of an inhuman machine.