Atlantic Slave Trade History Essay

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Describe the Neirsée incident. What upset France? What upset Britain? What was unfair about the capture of the slaves? Although Britain and France were formally attempting to dismantle the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the global economy had come to depend on it. The Neirsée incident of 1828 reveals the difficulties inherent in dismantling the slave trade due to the interconnectedness of the global economy. For several years prior to this incident, Britain had outlawed the trafficking of slaves, which is why the British Navy decided to intervene and capture the ship. Yet Britain did not have an international mandate to suddenly outlaw slave trafficking altogether. The human cargo on board the Neirsée was worth far too much to the businesspeople involved on both sides of the Atlantic, both in colonial territories and in Africa. In Inhuman Traffick, Blaufarb relies on primary sources from Britain and France to demonstrate what occurred before, during, and after the Neirsée incident. The British sources were far more reliable and easier to obtain, which is why the French side of the story is less well told than that of the British. Nevertheless, Blaufarb does obtain from France primary sources, mainly the books from the governor of Guadeloupe, the Baron des Routours. This source shows how the French were more ambivalent than the British regarding the...


The British primary sources Blaufarb uses to compose Inhuman Traffick include Admiral Fleming’s copious writing, as well as that of Captain Owen and the logs of the British crewmen. Taken together, this set of documents shows what was so upsetting about the Neirsée incident from multiple perspectives.
The slavers—both exporters and importers—viewed their human cargo as their private property. Therefore, the French response to the British interception of the Neirsée was viewed not as a humanitarian intervention but as a hostile act. As the correspondences show, though, the perspectives of the colonial government officials in Guadeloupe were less sympathetic towards British abolitionism, let alone towards slaves and their human rights, than their French counterparts in the Old World. The Neirsée incident therefore demonstrates how difficult it was logistically to try and implement a universal policy of human rights at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and why the United States, Brazil, and other areas continued to participate in slaving. The primary source documents also show differential attitudes of other European powers, many of whom had some part to play in the trans-Atlantic slave trade but none with as great a financial stake as Great Britain. Ironically, it would be…

Sources Used in Documents:


Rafe Blaufarb and Liz Clarke, Inhuman Traffick: The International Struggle against the Transatlantic Slave Trade: A Graphic History. Oxford University Press, 2014. ISBN-13: 978-0199334070

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