Atlantic slave systems and violence
in A global history of early modern violence

The Atlantic slave trade was a violent institution. What is more important than cataloguing the everyday and extraordinary violence in the Atlantic slave system – which began in the mid fifteenth century, before Columbus’s voyages to the New World, and which lasted until 1888, when Brazil became the last society to abolish slavery – is to analyse the meanings for planters, traders, and enslaved people of the constant violence that enveloped this system. This chapter uses violence as an analytic category in order to demonstrate how brutality, violence, and death were not mere by-products of the extremely lucrative early modern plantation system, but were the sine qua non of that plantation world.

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