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Cultures of exchange: Atlantic Africa in the era of the slave trade

Richardson, David


David Richardson


Cultural factors have often been invoked to explain parliament's decision in 1807 to outlaw slave carrying by British subjects but they have only infrequently been cited in efforts to explain why the Atlantic slave trade itself became so large in the three centuries preceding 1807. This paper seeks to redress this imbalance by looking at ways in which inter-cultural dialogue between Africans and Europeans and related adjustments in social values and adaptations of African institutional arrangements may contribute to improving our understanding of the huge growth in market transactions in enslaved people in Atlantic Africa before 1807. In exploring such issues, the paper draws on important theoretical insights from new institutional economics, notably the work of Douglass North. It also attempts to show how institutionally and culturally based developments in transatlantic slave trafficking, the largest arena of cross-cultural exchange in the Atlantic world before 1850, may themselves help to promote understanding of the much broader historical processes that underpin economic change and the creation of the modern world.


Richardson, D. (2009). Cultures of exchange: Atlantic Africa in the era of the slave trade. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 19, 151-179.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Nov 12, 2009
Publication Date 2009-12
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
Print ISSN 0080-4401
Electronic ISSN 1474-0648
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Pages 151-179
Keywords History
Public URL
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