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Beyond an Imperial Atlantic: Trajectories of Africans From Upper Guinea and West-Central Africa in the Early Atlantic World

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-122
Number of pages32
JournalPast and Present
Issue number1
Early online date27 Feb 2016
Accepted/In press27 Feb 2016
E-pub ahead of print27 Feb 2016
Published27 Feb 2016


King's Authors


Since Fernand Braudel first offered a new vision of the global interconnections of maritime history through the Mediterranean, historians of Africa and of what is now called Atlantic history have tended to pursue ever divergent paths.1 As Bernard Bailyn has noted, the influence of a common Christian culture and the importance of strategic transatlantic alliances in the Cold War era inspired the study of Atlantic history to turn towards an understanding of the historical depths of inter-imperial Atlantic linkages.2 On the other hand, within the postcolonial context of Africanist historiography, early interest in precolonial African states was rapidly transformed into what Richard Reid has called the presentism of contemporary historical studies of Africa.3 This means that engagement by historians of Africa with the conceptualization of the Atlantic has been slow. This article shows, however, that new approaches to the concept of diaspora enable us to see past the tragedy of violent enslavement and the place of European empires, and to consider key ways in which African peoples forged the connections that helped to make the Atlantic world.

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