Slavery and the Slave Trade

The very extensive literature on slavery and the slave trade is catalogued in Arnold R. Highfield & George F. Tyson, Slavery in the Danish West Indies. A Bibliography, St. Croix 1994, which comprises 495 annotated entries primarily concerning literature in Danish and English. The standard work in this field is Neville A. T. Hall, Slave Society in the Danish West Indies. St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, Jamaica, 1992, which is written from a local West Indian point of view and based on exhaustive studies of printed and unprinted source material. Various more recent contributions can be found in George F. Tyson & Arnold R. Highfield, eds., The Danish West Indian Slave Trade. Virgin Islands Perspectives, St. Croix 1994, among these a splendid analysis of the history of the Danish slave trade by Arnold R. Highfield. Reprints of various important articles are found in George F. Tyson, ed., Bondmen and Freedmen in the Danish West Indies. Scholarly Perspectives, St. Thomas 1996. One of the valuable contributions to this, pp. 1-17, is B. W. Higman, Danish West Indian Slavery in Comparative Perspective. An Appreciation of Neville Hall’s Contribution to the Historiography.

The Danish slave trade was first treated in scholarly fashion in C. Alberti, Den danske Slavehandels Historie, in Historisk Tidsskrift, 2nd series, vol. 3, 1850, pp. 201-244. Of later researchers, Svend Erik Green-Pedersen in particular deserves mention. He published a large number of articles on the slave trade, such as Svend Erik Green-Pedersen, The Scope and Structure of the Danish Negro Slave Trade, in Scandinavian Economic History Review 19, 1971, pp. 149-197; Svend Erik Green-Pedersen, The History of the Danish Negro Slave Trade 1733-1807. An Interim Survey Relating in Particular to Its Volume, Structure, Profitability and Abolition, in Revue française d’histoire d’outre-mer 62, 1975, pp. 196-220; and Svend Erik Green-Pedersen, Colonial Trade under the Danish Flag. A Case Study of the Danish Slave Trade to Cuba 1790-1807, in Scandinavian Journal of History 5, 1980, pp. 93-120. It should be noted that the extent of the Danish slave trade across the Atlantic has most recently been revised in Per O. Hernæs, Slaves, Danes, and African Coast Society. The Danish Slave Trade from West Africa and Afro-Danish Relations on the 18th-Century Gold Coast, Trondheim 1995.

A general description of the Danish and international slave trade is found in Dieter Lohmeier, Sklaven – Zucker – Rum. Dänemark und Schleswig-Holstein im Atlantischen Dreieckshandel, Heide 1994, which also includes German abstracts of various classic works.

Slave-ship mortality is treated in Svend Erik Green-Pedersen, Om forholdene på danske slaveskibe med særligt henblik på dødeligheden 1777-89, in Handels- og Søfartsmuseets Årbog 1973, pp. 27-76. The voyages of what is perhaps the best documented slave ship in the world, until its loss in 1768, are described in Hartvig W. Dannevig, Slaveskipet Fredensborg, Oslo 1978, and in great detail in Leif Svalesen, Slaveskibet Fredensborg og dansk-norsk slavehandel i 1700-tallet, Copenhagen 1996. The latter is now available in an English version, viz. Leif Svalesen, The Slave Ship Fredensborg, Jamaica 2000.

In 1792, Denmark was the first European nation to prohibit the transatlantic slave trade. The background to this is treated in Henning Højlund Knap, Danskerne og slaveriet. Negerslavedebatten i Danmark indtil 1792, in Peter Hoxcer Jensen et al., eds., Dansk kolonihistorie. Indføring og studier, Århus 1983, pp. 153-174. The first scholarly treatment of the prohibition is C. A. Trier, Det dansk-vestindiske Negerindførselsforbud af 1792, in Historisk Tidsskrift, 7th series, vol. 5, 1904-1905, pp. 405-508. More recent treatments are Svend Erik Green-Pedersen, Danmarks ophævelse af negerslavehandelen. Omkring tilblivelsen af forordningen af 16. marts 1792, in Arkiv 3, 1969, pp. 19-37; Svend Erik Green-Pedersen, The Economic Considerations behind the Danish Abolition of the Negro Slave Trade, in Henry A. Gemery & Jan S. Hogendorn, eds., The Uncommon Market. Essays in the Economic History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, San Francisco 1979, pp. 399-418; and Svend Erik Green-Pedersen, Dansk-vestindisk slavehandel og dens ophævelse. Konklusioner efter udenlandske arkiv- og biblioteksstudier, in Ole Feldbæk & Niels Thomsen, eds., Festskrift til Kristof Glamann, Odense 1983, pp. 51-70. From the United States comes Joseph E. Loftin, The Abolition of the Danish Atlantic Slave Trade, PhD dissertation, Louisiana State University, 1977. The subject has recently been broached in Erik Gøbel, The Danish Edict of 16th March 1792 to Abolish the Slave Trade, in Jan Parmentier & Sander Spanoghe, eds., Orbis et orbem. Liber amicorum Jan Everaert, Ghent 2001, pp. 251-264.

One of the particular reasons for the prohibition is highlighted in Hans Christian Johansen, Slave Demography in the Danish West Indian Islands, in Scandinavian Economic History Review 29, 1981, pp. 1-20; Hans Christian Johansen, The Reality behind the Demographic Arguments to Abolish the Danish Slave Trade, in David Eltis & James Walvin, eds., The Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Origins and Effects in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, Madison WI 1981, pp. 221-230; and Svend Erik Green-Pedersen, Slave Demography in the Danish West Indies and the Abolition of the Danish Slave Trade, in David Eltis & James Walvin, eds., The Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Origins and Effects in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, Madison WI 1981, pp. 231-257.

The slave community is described inter alia in Neville A. T. Hall’s above-mentioned book and in several of his articles. Also worthy of mention are Jørgen Bach Christensen, Jord, slaver og plantere. Kolonisamfundet på St. Croix 1742-1804, in Peter Hoxcer Jensen et al., eds., Dansk kolonihistorie. Indføring og studier, Århus 1983, pp. 137-151; Paula Holman Pope, Cruzan Slavery. An Ethnohistorical Study of Differential Responses to Slavery in the Danish West Indies, PhD dissertation, University of California, 1969; Karen Fog Olwig, Finding a Place for the Slave Family. Historical and Anthropological Perspectives, in Folk 23, 1981, pp. 345-358, which focuses on the conditions on St. John in the 19th century; Karen Fog Olwig, Slaves and Masters on 18th Century St. John, in Ethos 50, 1985, pp. 214-230; and William Chapman, Slave Villages in the Danish West Indies. Changes of the Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries, in Thomas Carter & Bernard L. Herman, eds., Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, vol. 4, Columbia MO, 1991, pp. 108-120.

The demographics, as compared to those on the other islands, are described in optimistic terms by a Danish West Indian lawyer in S. C. Sarauw, Om Fødsels- og Dødsforholdene i Slave-Populationen paa de dansk-vestindiske Øer, in Nyt Statsoeconomisk Archiv 1, 1843, pp. 253-293. The demographics of a specific sugar plantation are the focus of George F. Tyson, St. George’s Plantation, Prince’s Quarter, St. Croix, U. S. Virgin Islands, St. Croix 1993.

A theological defence of upholding slavery is discussed in Svend Erik Green-Pedersen, Teologi og negerslaveri. Om Erik Pontoppidans fortale til L. F. Rømer: Tilforladelig Efterretning om Kysten Guinea, 1760, in Johny Leisner et al., eds., Festskrift til Povl Bagge på halvfjerdsårsdagen, Copenhagen 1972, pp. 71-87, which is also available in English under the title Svend Erik Green-Pedersen, Negro Slavery and Christianity. On Erik Pontoppidan’s preface to L. F. Rømer, Tilforladelig Efterretning om Kysten Guinea (A true account of the Coast of Guinea), 1760, in Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana 15, 1976, pp. 85-102.

Literature on the slave laws are treated under the section Legislation and Law Enforcement.

 

 

   Danish National Archives