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Always endeavor to really be what you would wish to appear… Granville Sharp

Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery by Quobna Ottobah Cugoano was the most radical assault published by a writer of African descent on slavery and was his response to the hypocrisy of Enlightenment Europe’s attitude toward the institution. In many ways Sian Rees has picked up where he left off giving an account of the true consequences of the English – and by extension American – abolitionists movements. It is not the unalloyed success that was claimed and has left a legacy of a continent still in the grip of its failures.

Sweet water and bitter : the ships that stopped the slave trade London : Chatto & Windus, 2009 Sian Rees Slave trade Africa, West History 19th century Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 340 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 309-328) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

When the abolitionist Granville Sharpe bought land in Sierra Leone to ‘repatriate’ freed slaves, one former slave living in London foresaw trouble. ‘Is it possible,’ asked Ottobah Cugoano, biblically, ‘that a fountain should send forth both sweet water and bitter?’ Could the slave trade be abolished from West Africa when West Africa was its source? The answer was no.

Sweet Water and Bitter is the extraordinary sequel to Britain’s abolition of the slave trade in 1807. The last legal British slave-ship left Africa that year, but other countries and illegal slavers continued to trade. When the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815, British diplomats negotiated anti-slave-trade treaties and a ‘Preventive Squadron’ was formed to cruise the West African coast.

In six decades, this small fleet liberated 150,000 Africans and lost 17,000 of its own men in doing so. This is the tale of their campaign. It is also a story of consequences.. What to do with the freed slaves? How to manipulate international law so that you could board the ships of other nations? How to fight the intense hostility of African leaders to abolition? In tracing these complex questions Sian Rees shows how the campaign was linked to British imperial and commercial ambition as well as to philanthropy: the colonising of West Africa was the direct result.


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