Research Project

Documenting Africans in Trans-Atlantic Slavery (DATAS)

Principal Investigator
Dr Sean Kelley

This project investigates the question of identity in pre-colonial Africa and the Diaspora by focusing on ethnonyms.

For many years, historians and anthropologists have debated the significance of ethnonyms during the era of the slave trade. This project aims to contribute to the discussion by bringing together specialists in Africa and the Americas to devise a theoretical and methodological approach to historical ethnonyms for use in, among other areas, linked open-source datasets.

Using documents of all types (rosters of Liberated Africans, parish and court records, and autobiographical narratives), Essex project lead Dr Sean Kelley and his research partners plan to build a database for the study of African identity in the era of the slave trade. In addition, we plan several events and publications.

The project is funded by the Netherlands Research Council (NWO), the Economic and Social Research Council for the UK (ESRC), the Social Science and Historical Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and L'Agence Nationale de la Recherche of France (ANR).

Student in Square 4 circa 1972
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