In The Atlantic Slave Trade Herbert Klein attempts to go into great detail of the inner workings of the slave trade: how it came to be, the parties involved, as well as the social and cultural impacts it had on the society. When thinking of the slave trade previous to this class, I would think to myself how low we as a humanity once became, and how many of African Americans were exploited to this awful set of events.
After reading the book, those same thoughts still remained, however, due to Klein my understanding of the knowledge gave me greater insight into how complex the slave trade really was. How Portugal was one of the leaders in the slave trade, how countries turned against each other, and how much of the world was involved in this horrific set of events were all news to me while reading. Because of this complexity, no matter how clear the author was, the multitudes of information seemed to overwhelm me through my reading.
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Herbert Klein organized the book in a way that made all the information very recess, however, with all the numerical data I had a hard time keeping track. “The Chesapeake became the primary tobacco producer for the world, exporting 38 million pounds by 1700 holding some 145,000 slaves by 1750 absorbed 40,000 slaves by indenture. By 1790 there were an impressive 698,000 slaves… ” (44). This was all in the matter of a couple of sentences, for myself could never retain the information that was provided in the first sentence.
This quote does however go into precise figures, and is actually well laid out as a whole. Without having a deep prior knowledge though, it is ere difficult to follow the what’s all going on. If someone was to read this with prior knowledge of the subject, I’m sure they could weed out a lot of the information and take away more from the book. This book is definitely not for some general educated reader to pickup. It requires a decent understanding of the geography, slight prior knowledge of the subject, as well as the full interest into the subject. The first region encountered by the Portuguese as they rounded Cape Picador and arrived in the western Sudan just south of the Sahara, was the area called Sexagenarian, which took its name from the Senegal and Gambia Rivers, its two most prominent features” (60). This quote proves as an example, and a simple one at that, that one must know at least where everything is to fully gather the information that is provided in Kelvin’s book. Without it, one may surely get lost in the reading.
Even if a specialist were to read the book, I feel that due to how compact the book is, that they may get lost while reading as well. I don’t feel as though one could read through the book just once and honestly say, “I understood the majority of the information throughout the book,” thou getting lost somewhere in the book. Entering this project, nothing really interested me while looking at the end “Selected Sources” of each chapter, Slavery was the only thing that seemed remotely interesting not only because it’s such a huge part of history, but also because I didn’t know much about it.
I had no clue that so many countries were so directly involved in this business of sorts, that Portugal was the origin of the slave trade, and that the powers shifted so much in this horrific tragedy that happened in the new world. The book has increased my knowledge of the events that happened during the slave trade, but not necessarily my interest. I never found myself deeply engaged in the book unfortunately, and I found that surprising. Still strongly believe that the slave trade was wrong, but have neither gained, nor lost interest in it. The importance of the subject is made clear with all the information inside of it.
I may not understand every detail as they are going through, but the way the book is organized in a way where the importance of the subject is definitely shown. The importance of the book is to show us readers what the Atlantic Slave trade was all about. The chapter titles, and the information that is reflected in each chapter really shows this. Chapter titles beginning with “Slavery in Western Development,” and ending with, “The End of the Slave Trade,” really show how the author wanted to really concentrate on the bigger picture, rather than one specific moment in the Atlantic Slave Trade.
Throughout the book, I don’t believe there were any major inconsistencies. Actually felt that Klein went deeper, and was most precise in his book. “If the slave trade was profitable and the Africans were put to productive use in the Americas, then why did Europeans begin to attack the trade at the end of the eighteenth century and systemically term ante the participation of every European metropolis and American colony or republic in the nineteenth century? (188). Klein frequently used this strategy of posing a question at the beginning of the chapter, and then answering the same question throughout the rest of the chapter. Using this strategy, any inconsistencies were very infrequent, if none at all. All in all, there wouldn’t be anything in the book that I would need explained more, the author presented the question himself, and provided enough information where I felt he answered the question, and more.
Because of how tough this book was to read for myself I probably wouldn’t recommend it to someone who wanted to just read a book. If someone was interested in learning the intricacies, and the numerical data that came along with the Atlantic Slave Trade I would definitely recommend this one. It’s just one of those books that if you don’t have the want, or motivation to read it, then it won’t be enjoyable, and you’ll likely become lost in the plethora of information the book presents.