Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

European Slave Trading in the Indian Ocean, 1500–1850

By Richard B. Allen

“Richard Allen seeks to do for the Indian Ocean what Philip Curtin did in his census of the Atlantic slave trade forty-five years ago: to produce an estimation of the scale and geography of European slave trading activity beyond the Cape in the three centuries after 1500.”

David Richardson, coauthor of Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

“The importance of this field of studies has finally been recognized: the new Indian Ocean Studies Series… represents a strong move towards new studies on people with no voice, of new inter- and intra-disciplinary reconstructions and interpretations of a still under-researched area.”

Canadian Journal of African Studies

“This study, the resulting accomplishment of both thorough archival research and expert synthesis of existing scholarship, is a welcomed addition to the historiographies of the Indian Ocean, the history of slavery and abolitionism, and oceanic history more generally… This study is both accessible to the interested layperson and handy for an undergraduate student, graduate student, or even professional historian looking for an orientation within the field.”

The Middle Ground Journal

“[Allen’s] book serves to open the route and will be indispensable to future research.”

Outre-mers: Revue d’histoire

Between 1500 and 1850, European traders shipped hundreds of thousands of African, Indian, Malagasy, and Southeast Asian slaves to ports throughout the Indian Ocean world. The activities of the British, Dutch, French, and Portuguese traders who operated in the Indian Ocean demonstrate that European slave trading was not confined largely to the Atlantic but must now be viewed as a truly global phenomenon. European slave trading and abolitionism in the Indian Ocean also led to the development of an increasingly integrated movement of slave, convict, and indentured labor during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the consequences of which resonated well into the twentieth century.

Richard B. Allen’s magisterial work dramatically expands our understanding of the movement of free and forced labor around the world. Drawing upon extensive archival research and a thorough command of published scholarship, Allen challenges the modern tendency to view the Indian and Atlantic oceans as self-contained units of historical analysis and the attendant failure to understand the ways in which the Indian Ocean and Atlantic worlds have interacted with one another. In so doing, he offers tantalizing new insights into the origins and dynamics of global labor migration in the modern world.

Richard B. Allen is the author of Slaves, Freedmen, and Indentured Laborers in Colonial Mauritius and numerous articles on the social and economic history of Mauritius as well as slavery and indentured labor in the Indian Ocean and colonial plantation worlds.   More info →


Chapter 01: “Satisfying the Demand for Laboring People, 1500–1850”


Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Preface
  • Abbreviations
  • Note on Currencies
  • Chapter 1 · Satisfying the Demand for Laboring People, 1500–1850
  • Chapter 2 · The British East India Company and the Trade in Stout Coffree Men, 1621–1804
  • Chapter 3 · Satisfying the Constant Demand of the French, 1670–1810
  • Chapter 4 · Carrying Away the Unfortunate from India and Southeast Asia, 1500–1800
  • Chapter 5 · The Mascarenes and the Disgraceful Traffic in Chattel Labor, 1811–1835
  • Chapter 6 · The Dictates of Humanity, Indian Convicts, and the New System of Slavery, 1774–1850
  • Appendices
    • A · Demographic Characteristics of Slaves at Bencoolen and Dependencies, 1775, 1766, and 1782
    • B · Slave Population at Bencoolen and Dependencies, 1687–1794
    • C · St. Helena Slave Population, 1680–1811
    • D · Slave Prices in the Indian Ocean, 1706–1804
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index

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Retail price: $36.95, S.
Release date: January 2015
4 illus. · 372 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Retail price: $90.00, S.
Release date: January 2015
372 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Release date: January 2015
4 illus. · 372 pages
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for European Slave Trading in the Indian Ocean, 1500–1850

“A rich and complex account … saturated with tantalizing historical detail … an essential source for students in slavery studies and scholars exploring research voids beyond the Atlantic slave trade. It challenges the status quo and nudges scholars to consider the interconnected complexities of the Indian Ocean.”

Journal of Human Trafficking

“The general overview of slave trading patterns and the quantitative data … will become the foundation for future studies which analyse the role of slavery in Asia and aim to introduce a global perspective to the history of forced labour … Allen’s thorough archival research has produced a richly detailed monograph which makes a number of important contributions to the Historiography.”


“It will become a standard work in the field…[Allen] would be the first to agree that this book is not the final word on its subject, but it is undoubtedly a highly significant milestone on the way.”


“Allen offers important insights that are likely to inform the debate on the Indian Ocean slave trade for years.… The volume’s annotated tables alone speak to several years of painstaking research on a variety of sources … a significant contribution that should find a place in the library of any scholar of the slave trade.”

African Studies Quarterly

“This book is essential reading for any serious scholar in the fields of Indian Ocean studies, world history, and comparative studies of slavery and abolition. One can only hope that Allen’s clarion call will be heeded and others will follow his lead to fill in the numerous remaining gaps in our knowledge of the Indian Ocean world.”

Journal of World History

“Allen supports his provocative thesis—that the Indian Ocean has not been accorded a proper place in slave studies—with an eloquent and masterful command of both secondary and primary source material. …Allen’s research is an important contribution to the Indian Ocean region…The significance of this book is signaled by its being the first in a series of publications on Indian Ocean history by Ohio University Press.”

Slavery & Abolition

“An essential addition to growing literature about how people survived in the midst of extreme oppression and resisted enslavement. … [This] is a book that deserves to be read by scholars who have focused on issues of forced migration and the slave trade within the Atlantic.”

Mariner’s Mirror

“This first volume [of Ohio University Press’s Indian Ocean Studies Series] indicates that the new series is poised to quickly establish a leading position in the publication of scholarship in this growing field. … Thoroughly detailed and annotated throughout, the book exhibits all of the hallmarks of Allen’s rigorous scholarship. …[His] diligent and authoritative work forces us to reconsider the significance of Europe’s role in Indian Ocean slave trading, the interconnectivity of the Indian Ocean and Atlantic worlds, and the diversity of the populations affected by the slave trade.”

International Journal of African Historical Studies

“Richard Allen’s book represents what may be the first attempt to fully grapple with the scale of and connections between diverse imperial slave trading operations in the Indian Ocean during the peak of the European capture and sale of Africans. …While various versions of some of the chapters have been published over several years in different venues, here they are complemented with richer data and brought into conversation. European Slave Trading in the Indian Ocean may well become the go-to source to comprehend the grand contours of the Indian Ocean trade.”

Comparative Studies in Society and History

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