>I write occasional book reviews for the Providence Journal, and one of them (on Marcus Rediker’s The Slave Ship: A Human History) appeared yesterday that pertains to our history of slavery collection. Here is an excerpt:
In writing The Slave Ship, Marcus Rediker, a professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, hopes to render the abstract history of slavery, which is often illustrated by incomprehensibly vast numbers (12.4 million souls shipped from Africa by the early 19th century, of which 1.8 million died in the “Middle Passage”), into concrete terms — a rendering that he says we must understand for moral and political reasons.
Rediker examines the evolution of the slave ship as a “strange and potent combination of war machine, mobile prison, and factory.” He surveys the kinds of ships used, how they were designed, constructed, and fitted out for their voyages. He also includes good overviews of the six distinct regions in Africa from which most of the enslaved were drawn: Senegambia, Sierra Leone (the Windward Coast), the Gold Coast, the Bight of Benin, the Bight of Biafra, and West Central Africa (Kongo, Angola).
In a series of case studies, Rediker offers a deck’s-eye view from actual historical figures — Olaudah Equiano (a slave), James Stanfield (a sailor), and John Newton (a captain). He describes the slave ship Brooks, cited by abolitionists at the time as an example epitomizing the cruelties of the trade; it carried more than 5,000 Africans across the Atlantic in 10 voyages in the course of a quarter-century.
Here is the link to the full review: