Global Passages

Creating a Public Database of Slaving Voyages across the Indian Ocean and Asia

Feb. 27, 2023, 3:42 p.m.

Jane Hooper

Associate Professor


A team of scholars has received a three-year digital production grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support a major expansion of the open access SlaveVoyages website. The principal investigators are Dr. Richard B. Allen (Editor, Indian Ocean Studies Series, Ohio University Press), an internationally known expert on slavery and slave trading of the Indian Ocean world between 1500 and 1850, Dr. Matthew S. Hopper (California Polytechnic University), a specialist on slavery in Arabia and the East African slave trade to the Middle East during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Dr. Jane Hooper (George Mason University), a specialist on Madagascar and trade and commerce in the western Indian Ocean from 1600 to the mid-nineteenth century, and Dr. Daniel Domingues da Silva (Rice University), co-manager of the SlaveVoyages website which is currently hosted by Rice University and specialist in the Portuguese slave trade in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean.

The primary investigators will create an Indian Ocean and Asia (IOA) database of voyages which transported enslaved African, Malagasy, Middle Eastern, Indian, Southeast Asian, and East Asian men, women, and children within and beyond the Indian Ocean world between 1500 and 1940 as an integral part of the SlaveVoyages website. The database will incorporate the voyage datasets they have created over the last 15 years into this new open-source and fully searchable online database which will also include contributions from other internationally-based scholars and researchers.  

Dr. Domingues will coordinate the project with support from the School of Humanities, Fondren Library, and the Center for Research Computing at Rice University. Rice University hosted an international workshop on incorporating the Indian Ocean and Asia into SlaveVoyages in September 2022, thanks to sponsorship from the Center for African and African American Studies, Chao Center, Department of Anthropology, Department of History, Department of Transnational Asian Studies, Fondren Library, and the Humanities Research Center. Roundtable discussions with scholars during that workshop will help shape the structure and content of the IOA database.

This important new addition to the website will emphasize that the transoceanic commerce in slave labor was a truly global phenomenon that involved Arab/Swahili, Chinese, Indian, and Southeast Asian as well as European and American vessels. Research has demonstrated that the transoceanic slave trade in the Indian Ocean began centuries before it did in the Atlantic and continued into the mid-twentieth century, decades after the transatlantic trade’s demise in the mid-1860s. The investigators will also develop essays, lesson plans, and interactive maps to accompany the database. 

Further information about the IOA database and inquiries about contributing to it should be directed to Richard Allen ( or Jane Hooper (

Image credit: "Slave Ship, East African Coast, 1840s", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed February 27, 2023,