Assignment: Social History of the Atlantic Slave Trade

Institution: Georgia Highlands College

Location: Rome, GA

Participant: Shannon Bontrager

Year: 2016

Social History developed as a historiographical force in the 1960s and 1970s. It involves looking at humans as aggregated categories to identify trends and social interactions of the past. Social historians spend a lot of time counting and investigating databases. The Transatlantic slave trade has relatively few individual stories to tell. But historians can get an understanding of the slave trade by looking at databases of aggregated slaves. provides an opportunity to investigate social history of the slave trade. Go to

I. Under the heading "Assessing the Slave Trade" read the following essays:

  • "A Brief Overview of the Transatlantic Slave Trade"
  • "Seasonality in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade"

II. Then go to "Voyage Databases" and click on "Searching the database." Set the following search criteria:

  • Under "Voyage Itinerary" you should click on "Place where voyage began" and set the criteria for "Mainland North America."
  • You should also click on "Ship, Nation, Owner" and select "Flag" and select "U.S.A."
  • From here the student can add any other criteria of her or his choice to investigate their thesis.

III. Each student should build a spreadsheet containing the data for 30 voyages. These voyages should be identified with a hypothesis in mind and should be contained within a unit of time (a given year, a given decade, the Civil War, year of the Constitution, etc). The primary hypothesis should be an agreement or disagreement with Stephen Behrendt's argument for seasonality in the slave trade. Students should also add a secondary thesis onto their project that allows them to look at another aspect of the slave trade such as gender, mortality, geography, or some other criteria.

The student will be evaluated on the clarity and originality of their project design, the organization of their project and spreadsheet, the visual representations of their data sets, and the overall integrity of the argument and the data. The student will not be evaluated on whether or not they agree or disagree with Stephen Behrendt's seasonality thesis. The project will have an introduction, thesis, body, and conclusion. It will include the hard data and its description. It will also include a visual representation of the data that is symmetrical, user friendly, and full of information that can aid the writer's and the reader's interpretation of the data.

This project is worth 200 points.

  • 75 points = Project design and thesis
  • 75 points = Organization of the data collection and visual representation of data
  • 50 points = Overall integrity of the argument