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Title: MacCarthy's Skull: The Abolition of the Slave Trade in Sierra Leone, 1792-1823
Authors: Scanlan, Padraic Xavier
Advisors: Colley, Linda
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Abolition and Emancipation
Atlantic World
British Empire
Napoleonic Wars
Sierra Leone
Slave Trade
Subjects: History
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation reconstructs and interprets the implementation of British anti-slave-trade laws in Sierra Leone. The tiny colony in tropical West Africa was founded by British abolitionists and settled in 1792 by self-emancipated former slaves as a beacon of anti-slavery and as a trading post for African goods. When Parliament abolished the British slave trade in 1807, Sierra Leone was transformed from a failing commercial concern into the judicial and military hub of British slave-trade interdiction. A newly embodied Vice-Admiralty Court based in Freetown, the capital, condemned slave ships captured by the Royal Navy. Proceeds from the sale of seized ships and goods were distributed to the captors as prize money. The Court freed captives from the Middle Passage, and gave the colonial government the authority to resettle them. The sale of seized property and the cheap labour of former slaves made ending the slave trade profitable. And yet, abolition did not uproot systems of exchange built by generations of European and African slave-traders. Freedom for people aboard slave ships did not abolish the logic of debt redemption associated with the slave trade. The history of the practices improvised in West Africa to end the trade shows the gulf between imperial legislation and quotidian colonial practice, and suggests a new perspective on the history of emancipation in the Atlantic world. Chapter One shows how early Governors learned trade techniques from slave dealers, and how the Royal Navy presence at Freetown militarised the colony even before 1807. Chapter Two shows how the Vice-Admiralty Court became an engine for anti-slave-trade entrepreneurship. Chapter Three shows how the end of the slave trade was first interpreted as a charter to turn former slaves into denatured soldier-colonists. Chapters Four and Five show first how prize money for slave ships led to conflict among colonial officials, and second how former slaves were used as military labour to claim the profits of anti-slavery. Chapter Six shows how the end of the Napoleonic wars undermined the economic system improvised in Sierra Leone, and how the exigencies of the postwar settlement pushed the colony into war with the Asante empire.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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