The Sounds of Silence: Nineteenth-Century Portugal and the Abolition of the Slave Trade | BERGHAHN BOOKS
Join our Email List Berghahn Books Logo

berghahn New York · Oxford

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Instagram
The Sounds of Silence: Nineteenth-Century Portugal and the Abolition of the Slave Trade

View Table of Contents

Volume 4

European Expansion & Global Interaction

See Related
History Journals

Email Newsletters

Sign up for our email newsletters to get customized updates on new Berghahn publications.

Click here to select your preferences

The Sounds of Silence

Nineteenth-Century Portugal and the Abolition of the Slave Trade

João Pedro Marques
Translated from the Portuguese by Richard Wall

304 pages,

ISBN  978-1-57181-447-0 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (January 2006)

View CartYour country: - edit Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“…this volume is an excellent introduction to the scholarly exchange over the contested subject [of slavery and abolition]… Students of slavery and abolition in the western hemisphere can find no better introduction to the current scholarly debate on these issues…Highly recommended.”  ·  Choice

"... a significant contribution to the vast and rich international literature on abolitionism, its causes and consequences, main events and historical processes. Well-informed and up-to-date in relation to the most pressing debates on the abolition of slave trade, ...the study provides a much-needed counterpoint (and counterbalance) to an Anglocentric leaning that overwhelmingly dominates this field of studies."  ·  e-Journal of Portuguese History

“This book is the culmination of decades of careful research, and assumes an important place on a historiographical pitch steamrollered by an over-concentration on British perspectives.”  ·  European History Quarterly

“This work elucidates, with clear prose and abundant evidence, a new and important finding: the top slave trading nation of the nineteenth century did not act only upon British will, but developed its own antislavery attitudes within a nationalistic context.”  ·  Enterprise & Society

”His is a uniquely authoritative voice on abolition in Portugal, a far remove from the ‘enlightened will of the masters’ approach…that long dominated the historiography. The book is a spell-binding narrative with scholarship of the highest order. Marques is to be congratulated on breaking the silence surrounding the abolition of the slave trade of Portugal and bringing a Portuguese voice t6o international debates on abolition.”  ·  The International History Review

“[Marques] offers an important contribution not only for those interested in the Atlantic slave trade but also enriches generally the transnationally or globally oriented historiography. “  ·  H-Net, Clio-online

“…meticulously researched…the translation of this seminal book provides to English-speaking scholars a vivid account of the role of the ‘will of the masters’ in the process of abolition…”  ·  American Historical Review

"…this book will remain a useful source of information to analyse the diplomacy and politics of abolitionism in Portugal."  ·  Itinerario

"The Sounds of Silence is a solid book that we will all welcome on our shelves. The depth of Marques' analysis alone would be enough to make this book one of the most significant contributions to the recent scholarship on the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Nevertheless, Marques' primary sources are tremendously revealing and the variety of topics examined all together make this book a crucial piece of academic work on the field. João Pedro Marques has given us an outstanding and refreshing book that has certainly made me look at the slave trade from a different perspective, and from which I have been able to draw new conclusions."  ·  Reviews in History

“(This book) is a landmark not only in the history of Portugal, but also in the history of Angola and Brazil... A work that is light-years ahead of Portuguese writings on the subject, published before 1975”  ·  Análise Social

“About the year 1770, the slave trade was at its height, legal everywhere, an integral part of the commerce and society of the Atlantic world. One hundred years later, the slave trade had vanished and chattel slavery itself was destined for extinction. The causes and the dynamics of this radical change are hotly debated. The Sounds of Silence contributes to this debate by investigating the attitudes and political changes that in Portugal led to the ending of the slave trade”  ·  Luso-Brazilian Review

“Dr. Marques has written a remarkably lucid, innovative and scholarly book on a subject which has hitherto been partially neglected outside Portugal and comprehensively distorted inside Portugal”  ·  David Birmingham,University of Kent

“Dr. Marques’ work contributes to the very broad array of studies on nineteenth-century abolition by bringing the distinctive circumstances in Portugal to bear on debates that have otherwise been left to proceed in complete innocence of this important variant of Atlantic history”  ·  Joseph C. Miller, University of Virginia

“(The Sounds of Silence) will redress the unbalanced of studies on the Atlantic slave trade and it will be welcomed by the scholarly community. Dr. Marques has written this study with a sound knowledge of the various debates in the slave trade histories of the UK, France and the Netherlands”  ·  Pieter C. Emmer, University of Leiden


Portugal was the pioneer of the transatlantic slave trade, the ruler of both Brazil and Angola — the all time champions of that trade —, and one of the last western countries to decree the abolition of slaving institutions. Paradoxically, and in spite of the overwhelming number of works devoted to the problems of slavery produced in recent decades, little was known about the way Portugal dealt with the twilight of the age of slavery and, most of all, with abolitionism. This book offers the first study of the abolition of the Portuguese slave trade, covering the period from the end of the eighteenth century to the mid-1860s, and bringing to life a dark and silenced corner in the history of the odious commerce. Based on a thorough examination of Portuguese and British historical sources — most of them never used before —, and on his awareness of the international scholarship in the field in which he writes, it investigates not only the Portuguese pro and anti-abolitionist attitudes but also the underlying ideologies, and whether and how those attitudes and ideologies changed over time and in the light of events in the political, economic and social spheres.

João Pedro Marques has been a researcher at the Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical (Lisbon) since 1987. He obtained a PhD in History from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, where he taught African History during the 1990s. He has published several books and articles, both in Portugal and France, on the subjects of slavery, abolition and other colonial issues.

Subject: Colonial HistoryRefugee and Migration Studies
Area: Southern Europe


Back to Top

Library Recommendation Form

Dear Librarian,

I would like to recommend The Sounds of Silence Nineteenth-Century Portugal and the Abolition of the Slave Trade for the library. Please include it in your next purchasing review with my strong recommendation. The RRP is: $135.00

I recommend this title for the following reasons:

BENEFIT FOR THE LIBRARY: This book will be a valuable addition to the library's collection.

REFERENCE: I will refer to this book for my research/teaching work.

STUDENT REFERRAL: I will regularly refer my students to the book to assist their studies.

OWN AFFILIATION: I am an editor/contributor to this book or another book in the Series (where applicable) and/or on the Editorial Board of the Series, of which this volume is part.