Using African Names to Identify the Origins of Captives in the Transatlantic Slave Trade: Crowd-Sourcing and the Registers of Liberated Africans, 1808–1862

TitleUsing African Names to Identify the Origins of Captives in the Transatlantic Slave Trade: Crowd-Sourcing and the Registers of Liberated Africans, 1808–1862
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsAnderson, R, Borucki, A, da Silva, DDomingues, Eltis, D, Lachance, P, Misevich, P, Ojo, O
JournalHistory in Africa
Volume40
Pagination165-191
ISBN Number0361-5413
KeywordsHistory-Slavery
Abstract

Between 1808 and 1862, officers primarily from the British navy liberated approximately 175,000 enslaved Africans from transatlantic slavers. Information on more than half of this group has survived in bound ledger books. Based on the assessment of extant data for more than 92,000 Liberated Africans whose information was copied in at times duplicate and triplicate form in both London- and Freetown-based registers, this essay explores the pitfalls and possibilities associated with using the Registers for Liberated Africans as sources for historical analysis of the slave trade. The article explains the relationship of multiple copies of the registers to each other, demonstrates the link between the African names they contain and ethnolinguistic identities, argues for crowd-sourcing – drawing on the knowledge of the diasporic public and not just scholars – and, finally, shows the importance of such an approach for pre-colonial African history. RésuméEntre 1808 et 1862, les officiers de la Marine Britannique libérèrent environ 175,000 esclaves africains des négriers transatlantiques. Ils furent amenés par la suite à Freetown, à la Havane, et à d’autres ports où leurs noms et des informations personnelles furent inscrits dans les régistres relies. En se servant des données sur plus de 92,000 de ces Africains libérés, cet article s’interroge sur la possibilité d’utiliser les Registers for Liberated Africans comme sources d’analyse historique de la traite des esclaves. La relation entre les régistres différents mentionnant les mêmes individus est examinée, ainsi que les liens possibles entre noms africains et identités ethnolinguistiques. En proposant comme méthode d’analyse le “crowd-sourcing,” à savoir, l’appel aux connaissances des publiques diasporiques au lieu de se limiter au savoir des experts, l’étude montre le besoin d’une telle approche dans l’étude de l’histoire de l’Afrique précoloniale.; Between 1808 and 1862, officers primarily from the British navy liberated approximately 175,000 enslaved Africans from transatlantic slavers. Information on more than half of this group has survived in bound ledger books. Based on the assessment of extant data for more than 92,000 Liberated Africans whose information was copied in at times duplicate and triplicate form in both London- and Freetown-based registers, this essay explores the pitfalls and possibilities associated with using the "Registers for Liberated Africans" as sources for historical analysis of the slave trade. The article explains the relationship of multiple copies of the registers to each other, demonstrates the link between the African names they contain and ethnolinguistic identities, argues for crowd-sourcing - drawing on the knowledge of the diasporic public and not just scholars - and, finally, shows the importance of such an approach for pre-colonial African history.