Publication Date

April 2019

Advisor(s)

Demetrius Eudell

Major

History (HIST)

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

Over the course of the hundred-odd years between 1725 and 1831, a small cohort of English sea captains, doctors, and crewmen published their recollections of life aboard eighteenth-century British slaving vessels trading on the western coast of Africa. This thesis will serve as an intervention in the use of such texts, which I have termed "slaving narratives," as primary sources in the evolving field of the social history of the African slave trade. Historians working to build the field of ‘Middle Passage studies’ who have heretofore utilized these documents as sources have lacked a critical understanding of the nature of the documents themselves, including the cultural, social and literary moment which gave rise to them and slavers’ intentions and motives in creating them. Examined with this crucial context, slaving narratives reveal themselves to be not only dubiously objective but dubiously factual.

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