Patrick Manning, “World History and the African Migration Simulation”
Patrick Manning’s ongoing discussion of the slave trade and its lasting effects on the African continent is augmented by the inclusion of computer modeling. Using matrix analysis and algebraic calculation he continues a thirty-year quest to help define a very peculiar migration of peoples from Africa to the Americas. As always, he applies quantitative analysis and world systems approaches to the question.
Historians – using ship logs and other supporting documents – largely agree that the removal of about 10 million people from the central regions of Africa was one of the lasting legacies of the slave trade. The vexing question on the trade’s impact on the sending cultures is not so neatly documented – partly because populations are not numerically documented. Manning attempts to illuminate this space in history by modeling the growth of an estimated Africa population by starting with modern population numbers, exploring documented population growth in South Asia over similar time spans, and tinkering with assumed birth and death rates. Manning presents his projected results in population pyramids. His equations are used in lieu of censuses making his line of inquiry open to many interpretations.
Using these methods, Manning has generally revised his older numbers as he believes African populations tended to be underestimated. His new statistic will provide material to a variety of scholars examining very local and very global questions. The impact of these numbers is currently under discussion.