The historiography of the Sahara and trans-Saharan trade provides an explanatory key as to how premodern Saharan slavery has been understood since the nineteenth century. Part 1 of McDougall’s article deconstructs that historiography in terms of the intersecting influences of the Atlantic model (slavery, slave trading, and the black diaspora), the Atlantic trade (commodities, including slaves out of West Africa), and Orientalism (Islam and Eastern visions of slavery). Part 2 develops a case study of a medieval Saharan commercial center, Awdaghust, to explore how these influences have been articulated in a concrete history. By first engaging with a recently published book on race, slavery, and Islam—all key factors in that articulation—and then revisiting largely overlooked 1970s and 1980s research, she suggests that there is much still to be learned about Saharan slavery that cannot be seen from within either the Atlantic or the Oriental worldview.

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