Black Ivory: History of British Slavery

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9780246138910: Black Ivory: History of British Slavery

This social history looks at African slavery and the Atlantic slave trade which, in the space of 300 years, transported more than 11 million Africans to the Americas and the Caribbean - with millions more dying en route. No other slave system in world history was so regulated and determined by the question of race, or had forcibly removed so many people and scattered them across such vast distances or had such prodigious results for the slave-owning class. Using contemporary accounts, this book shows how the British maritime trade and power were transformed by the Atlantic slave trade, and how ports like Bristol, Liverpool and London grew into international trading centres on the backs of the slaves. The book describes the enslavement of Africans, the brutal conditions for the human cargoes, the slave auctions and prosperous plantocracies of the slave colonies in the West Indian islands of Barbados and Jamaica, the songs of the slaves, revolts and runaways, the effects of conversion to Christianity and growing literacy among the slaves, the abolition campaign, the problems of freedom and the legacy of racism.

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In the space of three centuries more than 11 million Africans were transported as slaves to the Americas – with millions more dying 'en route'. No other slave system in world history was so regulated and determined by the question of race, or forcibly removed so many people and scattered them across such vast distances for such prodigious results for the slave-owning class.

How did black slavery – one of the founding institutions of modern Western civilization – come about, and how was the practice maintained for so long? What was its impact on the slaves themselves?

Using contemporary accounts, the historian James Walvin shows how British maritime trade and power (and banking and insurance) were transformed by the Atlantic slave trade, and how ports such as Bristol, Liverpool and London grew into international trading centres on the backs of the slaves. He describes the enslavement of Africans; the brutal conditions for the human cargoes aboard the slave-ships; the slave auctions and prosperous plantocracies of the slave colonies in the West Indian islands (especially Barbados and Jamaica); the sexual licence of the slave-owners; the songs of the slaves; the revolts and runaways; the effects of conversion to Christianity and growing literacy among the slaves; the abolition campaign; the problems of freedom and, finally, the legacy of racism.

By the time slavery was abolished in the British colonies of the Caribbean in 1838 and in America in 1865, slaves had transformed the tastes of the western world – for tobacco, coffee, rum and sugar – as surely as slavery had changed forever the face of the Americas and Africa.

For a comprehensive understanding and richly detailed social history of this extraordinary phenomenon, whose ramifications continue today, 'Black Ivory' is unlikely to be rivalled.

James Walvin is Reader in the History Department at the University of York, where he has taught since 1967. Born in Manchester, he graduated from the University of Keele, did graduate work at McMaster University, Canada, and took his doctorate at the University of York.

He has written widely on slave history and on British social history. His books include 'A Child's World: A Social History of English Childhood 1800-1914; English Urban Life 1776-1851; 'and 'Black and White: The Negro and English Society 1555-1945', which was awarded the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize for 1974. He is also the author of 'Victorian Values', the companion book to the 1989 Granada Television series.

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Walvin, James
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