The Diligent: Worlds Of The Slave Trade / Edition 1

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The Diligent began her journey in Brittany in 1731, and Harms follows her along the African coast where her goods were traded for slaves, to Martinique where her captives were sold to work on sugar plantations. Harms brings to life a world in which slavery was a commerce carried out without qualms. He shows the gruesome details of daily life aboard a slave ship, as well as French merchants wrangling with their government for the right to traffic in slaves, African kings waging epic wars for control of European slave trading posts, and representatives of European governments negotiating the complicated politics of the Guinea coast to ensure a stead supply of labor for their countries' colonies. The Diligent is filled with rich stories that explain how the slave trade worked on all levels, from geopolitics to the rigging of ships.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
An original book that will endure.... As a comprehensive and multilayered appreciation of the [slave] trade, The Diligent has no peer.
Los Angeles Times
A compelling and illuminating narrative.... An indispensable work of history.... Harms is not the first to convey the cruelty of the slave traffic, but his vivid re-creation of this period is a remarkable achievement.... For a sense of what the trade involved and how it was made possible, Harms's story is unrivaled.
Wall Street Journal
An excellent work.
H Net Book Review
Africanist Robert Harms provides the most vivid and useful description of a typical slave trading voyage ever written. Imaginatively constructed, deftly and engagingly written, a model of research, the book takes the reader deep into the tragic heart of the eighteenth-century Atlantic.
Boston Globe
Much like the voyage of the Diligent, Harms's narrative zigzags from one locale to the next, moving backward and forward in time, as the author draws on a wealth of archival research to illuminate the overlapping contexts of the slave trade. Within the rich tapestry of Harms's narrative, a wide range of characters appears.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465028726
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 1/7/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 466
  • Sales rank: 1,338,527
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Harms is Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of two books about Africa, River of Wealth, River of Sorrow and Games Against Nature. He lives in Guilford, Connecticut.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2004

    Difficult at Times to Plod Through

    I'm glad I stuck with this book. The author is a total researcher who puts much irrelevant material in his book. It's nice to know the background history of the world at the time the Diligent set sail from France to Africa. But I skipped a lot of pages and would have preferred the author condense some events. I felt he got off track quite a bit. I was mostly interested to see what life was like on a typical slave, but it took the author about 220 pages to get to Africa. I was very interested in the situation in Africa at that time so was able to concentrate on most pages. Still, it was many pages later before the purchased slaves were on board The Diligent. I found the voyage extremely interesting. I think it took 50+ days to sail from Africa to Martinique in the Caribbean. However, the author again lost me on some pages about life on Martinique and the subsequent trial of the ship's captain when he returned to France. This book has much wonderful information about the 1700's, but it could have been cut in HALF at least. Next time in your next book, Mr. Harms, don't include every last bit of research you unearthed. Make the book more readible for the majority, not just the few!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2004

    A very important, powerful, haunting account of one slaving voyage

    Harms presents the personal journal of Robert Durand, an officer on the ship Diligent, on a slavery expedition in 1731-32, greatly enhanced with Harms' meticulous and thorough research. The Diligent set sail from Vannes, France, purchased 256 Africans in Whydah and Jakin, in West Africa, then crossed the 'middle passage' to sell the slaves in Martinique. It's not a pretty story. The reader learns appalling details. For instance, the most desirable slaves were between ten and 15 years old. Slave traders would lick the chins of beardless male captives, to determine whether they had beard growth that had been shaved prior to showing to make them appear younger. It was no wonder that the Africans may have imagined they were being purchased for the kitchen tables of European cannibals. During the naked inspection process, the shackled prisoners underwent the indignity of traders checking their eyes, teeth and genitals. After purchase, they were branded. On the Diligent, the 256 captives were packed like sardines, doubled-decked for efficiency, into a space about 63 by 21 feet. Nine slaves and four crew members died on the 66-day-long crossing. 'The main reason for the misery and death of the Diligent captives was to supply wealthy Europeans with sugar for their tea and cakes.' (p. 389) This is an outstanding book--highly recommended!

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