In response to critiques of the ‘slavery versus freedom’ binary and its limitations, researchers at the international Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies (BCDSS—
In the years 1823, 1829–1830, and 1837, West and West Central Africa had to contend with three devastating yellow fever epidemics that affected both slave dealers who had settled along the coast and anti-slave trade officials tasked with bringing the slave trade to an end. In this paper I argue that these epidemics had a profound impact on the actions of both sets of actors, and eventually on the expansion and demise of the slave trade in the region. By focusing on the actions of a myriad of Atlantic actors, I explore the ways in which cyclical epidemics of yellow fever were dealt with, emphasizing how prophylactic measures, treatments, and more generally, medical knowledge, were challenged, affected, and changed by the arrival of each of them.
This article revisits the scholarly debate on the profitability of historical slavery. The article examines the case of the antebellum US South, using slave hire rates as a proxy for the net rent on investments in slavery. It employs empirical data and a more advanced methodological approach to the issue than in previous research. The results suggest that the profitability of slavery was much higher than what most previous research has shown, around 14–15 per cent per year on average after adjusting for mortality risk, but that the return also fluctuated over time. It was on average more profitable for Southern capital owners to invest in slaves than investing in many alternatives such as financial instruments or manufacturing activities in the US South, as long as slavery remained a legal institution.