The best books to read if you want to know more about the slave trade from Angola

Who am I?

I am a professor of African history at the Royal Military College of Canada, where I teach courses on European colonialism and early and modern Africa. I earned a PhD in history from York University in Canada and spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto before joining RMC. My research interests include slavery, slave trade, legitimate commerce, and intercultural marriages in Luanda and its hinterland. I have published articles and book chapters and co-edited (with Paul E. Lovejoy) Slavery, Memory and Citizenship. My first book, Slave Trade and Abolition was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in January 2021.


I wrote...

Slave Trade and Abolition: Gender, Commerce, and Economic Transition in Luanda

By Vanessa Oliveira,

Book cover of Slave Trade and Abolition: Gender, Commerce, and Economic Transition in Luanda

What is my book about?

Well into the early nineteenth century, Luanda, the administrative capital of Portuguese Angola, was one of the most influential ports for the transatlantic slave trade. Between 1801 and 1850, it served as the point of embarkation for more than 535,000 enslaved Africans. In the history of this diverse, wealthy city, the gendered dynamics of the merchant community have frequently been overlooked.

Vanessa S. Oliveira traces how existing commercial networks adapted to changes operating in the South Atlantic during the nineteenth century. Slave Trade and Abolition reveals the strategies adopted by slavers in face of the ban on slave exports in 1836. Oliveira shows that large-scale merchants survived the end of the slave trade becoming the main investors in the "new" trade in tropical commodities, including ivory, wax, coffee, cotton and sugar.

The books I picked & why

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Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730-1830

By Joseph Calder Miller,

Book cover of Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730-1830

Why this book?

This book is a mandatory read for anyone interested in the history of the transatlantic slave trade. In Way of Death, the late Joseph C. Milller examines the South Atlantic node of the slave trade within the context of the rise of merchant capitalism in the eighteenth century. Miller explores the connections between Angola, Portugal, and Brazil through the experiences of Africans and slave traders of Portuguese, Brazilian, and Luso-African origins. In this book, Miller advances his now much-debated theory of the expansion of the slave frontier eastwards into the deep interior. Scholars interested in the slave trade from Angola agree that Way of Death is a landmark study both methodologically and theoretically. Miller was able to mine primary sources in the Angolan archives in a time when the country experienced war and authorities were suspicious of researchers. 


Enslaving Spirits: The Portuguese-Brazilian Alcohol Trade at Luanda and Its Hinterland, C. 1550-1830

By José C. Curto,

Book cover of Enslaving Spirits: The Portuguese-Brazilian Alcohol Trade at Luanda and Its Hinterland, C. 1550-1830

Why this book?

In Enslaving Spirits José C. Curto relies on the Atlantic history approach to demonstrate how alcohol linked Europe, Africa, and the Americas. The book looks at the role of foreign alcoholic beverages in the slave trade from Luanda and its hinterland between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries. The author follows the trajectory of Portuguese wine and the Brazilian alcohol known as geribita in the acquisition of captives to meet the demand for enslaved labor in the Americas. The reader will also learn a great deal about indigenous alcoholic beverages, as well as how the introduction of foreign intoxicants changed consumer partners in West Central Africa. Non-native merchants and African elites used foreign alcoholic beverages as trade goods, presents, and symbols of prestige through the era of the transatlantic slave trade.


Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Atlantic World: Angola and Brazil During the Era of the Slave Trade

By Roquinaldo Ferreira,

Book cover of Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Atlantic World: Angola and Brazil During the Era of the Slave Trade

Why this book?

In this book, Roquinaldo A. Ferreira traces the trajectory of free and enslaved individuals directly and indirectly connected to the slave trade from Angola in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By looking at the life stories of merchants and ordinary men and women in the ports of Luanda and Benguela he reveals the movements of peoples, ideas, capital, cultural practices, and commodities that shaped the South Atlantic World. Ferreira also demonstrates that the Portuguese incorporated indigenous institutions and cultural practices evidencing that cultural exchanges worked both ways. The book is a fine example of the use of microhistory to recover the experiences of subaltern individuals, including the enslaved, women, and criminals.


An African Slaving Port and the Atlantic World: Benguela and Its Hinterland

By Mariana Candido,

Book cover of An African Slaving Port and the Atlantic World: Benguela and Its Hinterland

Why this book?

The Angolan southern town of Benguela was the third-largest port of embarkation of captives in the history of the transatlantic slave trade, after Luanda and Ouidah (in modern-day Benin). In spite of its importance as a slaving port, An African Slaving Port was the first English-language book on Benguela. In this book, Mariana P. Candido traces the history and development of the port from the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century highlighting the connections between Benguela, Portugal, Brazil, and the Caribbean. The book contributes to the scholarship on the impact of the transatlantic slave trade on African societies looking at changes in consumption patterns, cultural elements, and institutions on the coast as well as in interior regions. Furthermore, the book contributes to engender the history of the slave trade from Angola by evidencing the role of local women merchants known as donas as independent traders and intermediaries between foreign traders and African suppliers inland.


The Atlantic Slave Trade from West Central Africa, 1780-1867

By Daniel B. Domingues da Silva,

Book cover of The Atlantic Slave Trade from West Central Africa, 1780-1867

Why this book?

In this book, Daniel B. Domingues da Silva traces the origins of the enslaved men, women, and children shipped from West Central African ports as well as their methods of enslavement. Silva has been part of the group of scholars who organized the Voyages, the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database. In this book, he draws upon archival research and the quantitative data found in the database to analyze the scale and organization of the forced migration of enslaved Africans to the Americas. Silva demonstrates that an important proportion of the enslaved Africans exported to the Americas in the nineteenth century originated from coastal areas. Therefore, his findings bring into question the theory of an expanding slave frontier inland.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Angola, Brazil, and the African slave trade?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Angola, Brazil, and the African slave trade.

Angola Explore 9 books about Angola
Brazil Explore 30 books about Brazil
The African Slave Trade Explore 16 books about the African slave trade

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Another Day of Life, Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa, and Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade if you like this list.