Building A Floating Prison: Slave Ships Throughout The Long Eighteenth Century

Author: ORCID icon
Alikhan, Shaheen, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Nelson, Louis, PV-EVPP-Administration, University of Virginia

This thesis examines the architecture of vessels used during the transatlantic slave trade, particularly during the height of the trade, in the years 1740-1807. Most especially, this thesis focuses upon the evolution of the structural elements featured on these ships, culminating in the vessels which were explicitly designed and constructed for the trade, referred to as purpose-built. This work references Liverpool, the West Indies (or Caribbean), and the slave coast of West Africa, but the location is more maritime- than land-based. My primary goal here as an architectural historian is to perform an historical review of the slave ship, an understudied, lost object type; this is not to diminish in any way the very real atrocities perpetrated against tens of millions of Africans. This thesis follows the arc of resistance, revolt, and self-manumission by the Africans enslaved and carried away aboard these ships, and the containment and mortality mitigation tactics which European merchants, captains, and shipbuilders utilized to counteract African resilience and resistance. The record of this collision manifests in the structure of the slaving vessel; by textually reconstructing these ships, we are able to follow some of the social impact of the single largest human trafficking event in history. TW: This thesis includes information pertaining to family separation, racism, murder, slavery, and sexual and physical abuse.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Slave, Ship, Africa, Transatlantic, Trade, Resistance, Vessel, Slaving, Slavery, Architectural, History, Diaspora, Guineamen
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