A World Transformed: Slavery in the Americas and the Origins of Global Power

Univ. of California May 2022. 425p. ISBN 9780520386242. $34.95. HIST
The enslavement and transportation of Africans formed the backbone of the Atlantic economy in the 16th through 19th centuries and facilitated the expansion of global trade. Historian Walvin’s (Freedom: The Overthrow of the Slave Empires) beautifully written and compassionate narrative artfully synthesizes modern scholarship on slavery. Walvin successfully decenters the nation-state to show the interconnectedness of the slave trade and the Atlantic economies and to demonstrate slavery’s enormous human and environmental effects. The slave trade radically transformed every place it touched, he argues: Europeans gained access to rich fabrics from Asia, while African societies were impacted by imported weapons, iron, and other goods. Walvin fully relates the horror and tragedy that awaited enslaved Africans as they crossed the sea in overcrowded and disease-ridden ships. Enslaved people were often transported between multiple ports and countries before being sold; then many of them endured long, torturous marches to reach the plantations or mines. Walvin masterfully conveys the tragedy and enormity of his subject without losing details or forgetting his subjects’ humanity.
VERDICT This general history of the slave trade provides a thorough and humane treatment of the subject that will appeal to non-specialists and specialists alike.
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