Long crossing – Daniel Costa’s (UNIFESP), on the book “Escravos, marinheiros e intermediários do tráfico negreiro de Angola ao Rio de Janeiro (1780–1860), by Jaime Rodrigues

Jaime Rodrigues | Image: Companhia das Letras

Abstract: De costa a costa. Escravos, marinheiros e intermediários do tráfico negreiro de Angola ao Rio de Janeiro (1780–1860), by Jaime Rodrigues, explores the organization of the trade in enslaved Africans, during the 18th and 19th centuries, between Angola and Brazil, placing emphasis on the “negotiations and conflicts”, on the vessels, on the “sailors” and “African” protagonists.

Keywords: Africans, Sailors, Slave Traffic.


Continuing the project of republishing fundamental books of Brazilian historiography belonging to its catalog — O Sol e a Sombra (Laura de Mello e Souza), Negros da terra (John Monteiro) and A vida é uma festa (João José Reis) to name a few of reprinted titles – Companhia das Letras brings to the specialized public, or not, the new edition of De costa a costa. Escravos, marinheiros e intermediários do tráfico negreiro de Angola ao Rio de Janeiro (1780–1860), by professor and historian Jaime Rodrigues. The central objective of the work is to verify how the trade in enslaved Africans between Angola and Rio de Janeiro was organized, especially at a time of strong demand and carried out under the umbrella of protection laws, which will be confronted by the author below when trafficking is now considered illegal.

Presented as a Doctoral Thesis defended at the University of Campinas (Unicamp) in 2000 with guidance from professor Silvia Hunold Lara, the work emerges (2005) as an obligatory reference for studies on the transatlantic slave trade, daily life on ships and the dynamics in around the painful ocean crossing of these souls. This new edition (2022) does not present any changes in relation to the first, except for the presentation written by the author, where it is reiterated that at a time when Brazilian society is still healing the wounds experienced during the pandemic and the misgovernment that “took” hold of the country by the end of 2022, the “association between the trafficking of enslaved people and the horrors of the present time has never been so current and sensitive.” According to Rodrigues, despite the “temptation brought by a second edition to review and build a dialogue with the current production”, not a single change was made, as the work “stands in the way it was originally conceived”. (p.11)

Addressing the period between 1780 and 1860, Jaime Rodrigues offers the reader the opportunity to cross the ocean in different situations, that is, throughout the book we have contact with the dynamics of legal and illegal trafficking, as it is prohibited from 1831. Rodrigues also recalls that this moment was marked by “peaks in the introduction of enslaved Africans, compensating for the possible closure of the transatlantic trade” (p.x) that was looming on the horizon. With the growing demand for slaves in the central south region, traffickers faced the risks of the venture, because despite the loss if the vessel was seized, such activity still represented great profit for these investors.

Starting from a vision of history led by those “from below”, Rodrigues addresses the complexity of the Atlantic slave trade, focusing his approach on these men and women who were involuntarily subjected to a painful crossing. Methodologically and theoretically marked by the foundations of Social History, the author also does not give up dialogue with the production of authors such as historian Joseph Miller, thus ending up demonstrating an enormous capacity for analysis. According to historian Maria Cristina Wissenbach, preface to the work, with his accurate ability to deal with sources and bibliography, Rodrigues is capable of analyzing “a linear and univocal event” transforming it “into a process marked by its own characteristics and variations over time ” (p.20).

The book is divided into three parts, which can give the reader the feeling of a journey with stops. The first — “Negotiation and conflict in Angola” — discusses the dynamics surrounding the Portuguese presence on the west African coast. A presence that was not only marked by domination, but also by tensions and conflicts in these regions, especially in areas where local leaders still had autonomy or in regions where foreign harassment was constant. Thus, the reader will discover that in areas such as Ambriz and Cabinda, this dominance was tenuous, as those who actually governed were the local leaders, while in Luanda and Benguela several groups intertwined representing interests, and finally in the regions of Loango and Molembo the sovereignty of the metropolis was seen as indisputable. Given the above, we agree with Wissenbach, when she states that the “historian follows the viscitudes of living and negotiating in Africa” with mastery.

The second part of the work — “Ships and men at sea” — can be seen as the innovative point of the book, as it is in this part where we have the approach taken to the crossing itself. In addition to established social relationships,the author also introduces the reader to the dynamics of the vessels and the crossing, so throughout the chapters we have a description of the types of vessels used in traffic, the social universe of the ship and the relationships established between the crew. It is worth highlighting the significant presence of enslaved and free Africans among the sailors; these characters played an important role in intermediating with the captives.

The author also addresses the daily lives of these men who embarked on the sea crossing, facing the difficulties of life on board, the constant threat of disease and fierce discipline, such themes would continue to be a constant in the historian’s intellectual production, as can be seen in the book “At sea and on land: History and culture of slave and free workers”, released in 2016.

Human shelf – The traffickers divided the basement into three levels, each less than half a meter high. Trapped by their feet, more than 500 slaves were squeezed lying or sitting. “They were like books on a shelf”, said drug dealer Joseph Cliffer. Image and text: SuperInteressante (22/06/2010)

Finally, the third part — “Sailors and Africans in action” — shows the reader that the transported slaves were not passive victims. Whether in some revolts that occurred on ships or in barracks in Africa, the resistance of these men and women was noticeable. The author brings the account of the traveler Maria Graham to show how resistance that was not always explicit ended up being interpreted as submission, let’s see: “While she was in Bahia convalescing on board the ship that was transporting her to Brazil, the Englishwoman Maria Graham saw, through the hatch , an unloading of slaves in the port of Salvador. He commented with sadness and a certain strangeness on the behavior of the Africans, who “are singing one of the songs of their land in a strange country”, while being unloaded under the orders of an overseer” (p .318) According to Rodrigues, the newcomers’ lack of knowledge of the language made the Englishwoman see alienation or submission where survival was celebrated after a troubled journey where death hovering around them was a constant.

As for sources, Rodrigues presents extensive information throughout the work taken from official correspondence, letters of orders and administrative reports, found mainly in the Overseas Historical Archive. They are completed by the cases against vessels seized for smuggling slaves, in addition to reports from travelers and memoirists. Regarding the use of sources, the author himself points out some difficulties and solutions: “Dealing with a topic for which sources are rare requires extra care” (p.42). The option for the adopted time frame is part of these precautions, as by covering a period covered by both legal and illegal trafficking, it allows for better management of sources. Regarding the period of illegal trafficking, Rodrigues recalls that “there is no perfect crime, and illegal trafficking was the subject of extensive repression that left important evidence, which I tried to analyze using a method that combines imagination, invention and supposition”, a method inspired by the work by Natalie Zemon Davis.

Historian Silvia Lara, author of the book, states that in addition to being innovative, Jaime Rodrigues’ work presents a different look at a classic theme in the history of Brazil. For Wissenbach, despite the density of information, the author’s writing provides the reader a fluent reading.

Agreeing with both, we can say that reading the book will offer the reader support to understand the dynamics of the transatlantic crossing throughout the 19th century and how the various actors involved faced the tortuous journey. Thus, by fulfilling the objectives presented at the beginning of the work, Jaime Rodrigues offers a reference work, which, almost twenty years after its release, remains an obligatory reference on the topics covered.

Summary of De Costa a Costa. Escravos, marinheiros e intermediários do tráfico negreiro de Angola ao Rio de Janeiro (1780-1860)

  • Apresentação
  • Prefácio – Maria Cristina Cortez Wissenbach
  • Agradecimentos
  • Palavras iniciais
  • I – Negociações e conflitos em Angola
  • 1. A grande loba que devora tudo: portos, feitorias e barracões de Angola
  • 2. Interesses em confronto
  • 3. A rede miúda do tráfico
  • II – Navios e homens no mar
  • 4. Navios negreiros: imagens e descrições
  • 5. As tripulações do tráfico negreiro
  • 6. Cultura marítima: a vez dos marinheiros
  • III – Marinheiros e africanos em ação
  • 7. Guerras, resistência e revoltas
  • 8. Saúde e artes de curar
  • 9. O mercado do Valongo
  • Epílogo
  • Notas
  • Abreviaturas utilizadas
  • Fontes e bibliografia
  • Lista de tabelas
  • Créditos das imagens
  • Índice remissivo

Reviewer

Daniel Costa is historian and professor, with a degree in History from UNIFESP, has developed research into corruption in Portuguese America, specifically in the 18th century. He published, among other works,Corrupção, corruptores e contrabando: uma discussão historiográfica sobre práticas ilícitas na América Portuguesa (C. Século XVIII) (2022)” e “Caminhando entre veredasApontamentos sobre o contrabando e corrupção na América portuguesa (Pernambuco 1758-1778) (2023)”. ID LATTES: http://lattes.cnpq.br/9383874655339999; ID ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7786-2678; E-mail: [email protected].


To cite this review

RODRIGUES, Jaime. De costa a costa. Escravos, marinheiros e intermediários do tráfico negreiro de Angola ao Rio de Janeiro (1780–1860). 2ed. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2022. Review by: COSTA, Daniel. Long crossing. Crítica Historiográfica. Natal, v.3, n.12, Jul./Aug., 2023. Available at <https://www.criticahistoriografica.com.br/en/long-crossing-daniel-costas-unifesp-on-the-book-escravos-marinheiros-e-intermediarios-do-trafico-negreiro-de-angola-ao-rio-de-janeiro-1780-1860-by-jaime-rodrigues/>


© – Authors who publish in Historiographical Criticism agree to the distribution, remixing, adaptation and creation based on their texts, even for commercial purposes, as long as due credit for the original creations is guaranteed. (CC BY-SA).

 

Crítica Historiográfica. Natal, v.3, n. 12, Jul./Aug., 2023 | ISSN 2764-2666

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Alertas/Alerts

Long crossing – Daniel Costa’s (UNIFESP), on the book “Escravos, marinheiros e intermediários do tráfico negreiro de Angola ao Rio de Janeiro (1780–1860), by Jaime Rodrigues

Jaime Rodrigues | Image: Companhia das Letras

Abstract: De costa a costa. Escravos, marinheiros e intermediários do tráfico negreiro de Angola ao Rio de Janeiro (1780–1860), by Jaime Rodrigues, explores the organization of the trade in enslaved Africans, during the 18th and 19th centuries, between Angola and Brazil, placing emphasis on the “negotiations and conflicts”, on the vessels, on the “sailors” and “African” protagonists.

Keywords: Africans, Sailors, Slave Traffic.


Continuing the project of republishing fundamental books of Brazilian historiography belonging to its catalog — O Sol e a Sombra (Laura de Mello e Souza), Negros da terra (John Monteiro) and A vida é uma festa (João José Reis) to name a few of reprinted titles – Companhia das Letras brings to the specialized public, or not, the new edition of De costa a costa. Escravos, marinheiros e intermediários do tráfico negreiro de Angola ao Rio de Janeiro (1780–1860), by professor and historian Jaime Rodrigues. The central objective of the work is to verify how the trade in enslaved Africans between Angola and Rio de Janeiro was organized, especially at a time of strong demand and carried out under the umbrella of protection laws, which will be confronted by the author below when trafficking is now considered illegal.

Presented as a Doctoral Thesis defended at the University of Campinas (Unicamp) in 2000 with guidance from professor Silvia Hunold Lara, the work emerges (2005) as an obligatory reference for studies on the transatlantic slave trade, daily life on ships and the dynamics in around the painful ocean crossing of these souls. This new edition (2022) does not present any changes in relation to the first, except for the presentation written by the author, where it is reiterated that at a time when Brazilian society is still healing the wounds experienced during the pandemic and the misgovernment that “took” hold of the country by the end of 2022, the “association between the trafficking of enslaved people and the horrors of the present time has never been so current and sensitive.” According to Rodrigues, despite the “temptation brought by a second edition to review and build a dialogue with the current production”, not a single change was made, as the work “stands in the way it was originally conceived”. (p.11)

Addressing the period between 1780 and 1860, Jaime Rodrigues offers the reader the opportunity to cross the ocean in different situations, that is, throughout the book we have contact with the dynamics of legal and illegal trafficking, as it is prohibited from 1831. Rodrigues also recalls that this moment was marked by “peaks in the introduction of enslaved Africans, compensating for the possible closure of the transatlantic trade” (p.x) that was looming on the horizon. With the growing demand for slaves in the central south region, traffickers faced the risks of the venture, because despite the loss if the vessel was seized, such activity still represented great profit for these investors.

Starting from a vision of history led by those “from below”, Rodrigues addresses the complexity of the Atlantic slave trade, focusing his approach on these men and women who were involuntarily subjected to a painful crossing. Methodologically and theoretically marked by the foundations of Social History, the author also does not give up dialogue with the production of authors such as historian Joseph Miller, thus ending up demonstrating an enormous capacity for analysis. According to historian Maria Cristina Wissenbach, preface to the work, with his accurate ability to deal with sources and bibliography, Rodrigues is capable of analyzing “a linear and univocal event” transforming it “into a process marked by its own characteristics and variations over time ” (p.20).

The book is divided into three parts, which can give the reader the feeling of a journey with stops. The first — “Negotiation and conflict in Angola” — discusses the dynamics surrounding the Portuguese presence on the west African coast. A presence that was not only marked by domination, but also by tensions and conflicts in these regions, especially in areas where local leaders still had autonomy or in regions where foreign harassment was constant. Thus, the reader will discover that in areas such as Ambriz and Cabinda, this dominance was tenuous, as those who actually governed were the local leaders, while in Luanda and Benguela several groups intertwined representing interests, and finally in the regions of Loango and Molembo the sovereignty of the metropolis was seen as indisputable. Given the above, we agree with Wissenbach, when she states that the “historian follows the viscitudes of living and negotiating in Africa” with mastery.

The second part of the work — “Ships and men at sea” — can be seen as the innovative point of the book, as it is in this part where we have the approach taken to the crossing itself. In addition to established social relationships,the author also introduces the reader to the dynamics of the vessels and the crossing, so throughout the chapters we have a description of the types of vessels used in traffic, the social universe of the ship and the relationships established between the crew. It is worth highlighting the significant presence of enslaved and free Africans among the sailors; these characters played an important role in intermediating with the captives.

The author also addresses the daily lives of these men who embarked on the sea crossing, facing the difficulties of life on board, the constant threat of disease and fierce discipline, such themes would continue to be a constant in the historian’s intellectual production, as can be seen in the book “At sea and on land: History and culture of slave and free workers”, released in 2016.

Human shelf – The traffickers divided the basement into three levels, each less than half a meter high. Trapped by their feet, more than 500 slaves were squeezed lying or sitting. “They were like books on a shelf”, said drug dealer Joseph Cliffer. Image and text: SuperInteressante (22/06/2010)

Finally, the third part — “Sailors and Africans in action” — shows the reader that the transported slaves were not passive victims. Whether in some revolts that occurred on ships or in barracks in Africa, the resistance of these men and women was noticeable. The author brings the account of the traveler Maria Graham to show how resistance that was not always explicit ended up being interpreted as submission, let’s see: “While she was in Bahia convalescing on board the ship that was transporting her to Brazil, the Englishwoman Maria Graham saw, through the hatch , an unloading of slaves in the port of Salvador. He commented with sadness and a certain strangeness on the behavior of the Africans, who “are singing one of the songs of their land in a strange country”, while being unloaded under the orders of an overseer” (p .318) According to Rodrigues, the newcomers’ lack of knowledge of the language made the Englishwoman see alienation or submission where survival was celebrated after a troubled journey where death hovering around them was a constant.

As for sources, Rodrigues presents extensive information throughout the work taken from official correspondence, letters of orders and administrative reports, found mainly in the Overseas Historical Archive. They are completed by the cases against vessels seized for smuggling slaves, in addition to reports from travelers and memoirists. Regarding the use of sources, the author himself points out some difficulties and solutions: “Dealing with a topic for which sources are rare requires extra care” (p.42). The option for the adopted time frame is part of these precautions, as by covering a period covered by both legal and illegal trafficking, it allows for better management of sources. Regarding the period of illegal trafficking, Rodrigues recalls that “there is no perfect crime, and illegal trafficking was the subject of extensive repression that left important evidence, which I tried to analyze using a method that combines imagination, invention and supposition”, a method inspired by the work by Natalie Zemon Davis.

Historian Silvia Lara, author of the book, states that in addition to being innovative, Jaime Rodrigues’ work presents a different look at a classic theme in the history of Brazil. For Wissenbach, despite the density of information, the author’s writing provides the reader a fluent reading.

Agreeing with both, we can say that reading the book will offer the reader support to understand the dynamics of the transatlantic crossing throughout the 19th century and how the various actors involved faced the tortuous journey. Thus, by fulfilling the objectives presented at the beginning of the work, Jaime Rodrigues offers a reference work, which, almost twenty years after its release, remains an obligatory reference on the topics covered.

Summary of De Costa a Costa. Escravos, marinheiros e intermediários do tráfico negreiro de Angola ao Rio de Janeiro (1780-1860)

  • Apresentação
  • Prefácio – Maria Cristina Cortez Wissenbach
  • Agradecimentos
  • Palavras iniciais
  • I – Negociações e conflitos em Angola
  • 1. A grande loba que devora tudo: portos, feitorias e barracões de Angola
  • 2. Interesses em confronto
  • 3. A rede miúda do tráfico
  • II – Navios e homens no mar
  • 4. Navios negreiros: imagens e descrições
  • 5. As tripulações do tráfico negreiro
  • 6. Cultura marítima: a vez dos marinheiros
  • III – Marinheiros e africanos em ação
  • 7. Guerras, resistência e revoltas
  • 8. Saúde e artes de curar
  • 9. O mercado do Valongo
  • Epílogo
  • Notas
  • Abreviaturas utilizadas
  • Fontes e bibliografia
  • Lista de tabelas
  • Créditos das imagens
  • Índice remissivo

Reviewer

Daniel Costa is historian and professor, with a degree in History from UNIFESP, has developed research into corruption in Portuguese America, specifically in the 18th century. He published, among other works,Corrupção, corruptores e contrabando: uma discussão historiográfica sobre práticas ilícitas na América Portuguesa (C. Século XVIII) (2022)” e “Caminhando entre veredasApontamentos sobre o contrabando e corrupção na América portuguesa (Pernambuco 1758-1778) (2023)”. ID LATTES: http://lattes.cnpq.br/9383874655339999; ID ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7786-2678; E-mail: [email protected].


To cite this review

RODRIGUES, Jaime. De costa a costa. Escravos, marinheiros e intermediários do tráfico negreiro de Angola ao Rio de Janeiro (1780–1860). 2ed. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2022. Review by: COSTA, Daniel. Long crossing. Crítica Historiográfica. Natal, v.3, n.12, Jul./Aug., 2023. Available at <https://www.criticahistoriografica.com.br/en/long-crossing-daniel-costas-unifesp-on-the-book-escravos-marinheiros-e-intermediarios-do-trafico-negreiro-de-angola-ao-rio-de-janeiro-1780-1860-by-jaime-rodrigues/>


© – Authors who publish in Historiographical Criticism agree to the distribution, remixing, adaptation and creation based on their texts, even for commercial purposes, as long as due credit for the original creations is guaranteed. (CC BY-SA).

 

Crítica Historiográfica. Natal, v.3, n. 12, Jul./Aug., 2023 | ISSN 2764-2666

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