Liberty's Captives: Narratives of Confinement in the Print Culture of the Early Republic: The Jefferson City Editorial Project / Edition 1

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An astonishing variety of captivity narratives emerged in the fifty years following the American Revolution; however, discussions about them have usually focused on accounts of Native American captivities. To most readers, then, captivity narratives are synonymous with "godless savages," the vast frontier, and the trials of kidnapped settlers. This anthology, the first to bring together various types of captivity narratives in a comparative way, broadens our view of the form as it shows how the captivity narrative, in the nation-building years from 1770 to 1820, helped to shape national debates about American liberty and self-determination.

Included here are accounts by Indian captives, but also prisoners of war, slaves, victims of pirates and Barbary corsairs, impressed sailors, and shipwreck survivors. The volume's seventeen selections have been culled from hundreds of such texts, edited according to scholarly standards, and reproduced with the highest possible degree of fidelity to the originals.

Some selections are fictional or borrow heavily from other, true narratives; all are sensational. Immensely popular with American readers, they were also a lucrative commodity that helped to catalyze the explosion of print culture in the early Republic. As Americans began to personalize the rhetoric of their recent revolution, captivity narratives textually enacted graphic scenes of defiance toward deprivation, confinement, and coercion. At a critical point in American history they helped make the ideals of nationhood real to common citizens.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Liberty's Captives makes a valuable and original contribution to the field of captivity narrative studies by expanding and theorizing generic boundaries and making available obscure and fascinating texts."—Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola, editor of Women's Indian Captivity Narratives

"In Liberty’s Captives Williams recovers a cache of treasure too long buried in popular print culture. Here we find the full text of prisoner-of-war narratives from the nation’s first two wars, as well as from its adventures on the Barbary Coast; pirate captivities and shipwreck narratives; and accounts of maritime impressment, among others. And as with his earlier Pillars of Salt, Williams not only proves a capable editor but places his material in the full frame of American cultural history. Finally, the book not only greatly enlarges our understanding of the term 'captivity narrative' but also raises important questions about the relation of liberty to bondage in the New Republic. From its pages come voices we are likely never to forget."—Philip Gura, author of Jonathan Edwards: America's Evangelical

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820328010
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 6/25/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel E. Williams is a professor of English at Texas Christian University. He has also edited an anthology of early American criminal narratives, Pillars of Salt.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : it's a free country 1
A narrative of the capture and treatment of John Dodge, by the English at Detroit (1779) 17
A surprising account, of the captivity and escape of Philip M'Donald, and Alexander M'Leod, of Virginia, from the Chickkemogga Indians (1786) 32
A very surprising narrative of a young woman, who was discovered in a rocky cave (1787) 42
Narrative of the remarkable occurrences, in the life of John Blatchford of Cape-Ann (1788) 50
A narrative of the captivity and sufferings of Mr. Ebenezer Fletcher, of Newipswich, who was... taken prisoner by the British (1798) 67
A narrative of the life and adventures of venture, a native of Africa : but a resident above sixty years in the United States of America (1798) 83
History of the captivity and sufferings of Mrs. Maria Martin, who was six years a slave in Algiers (1806) 105
The trial of Amos Broad and his wife ... for assaulting and beating Betty, a slave, and her little female child Sarah (1809) 131
The narrative of John Thomson, one of the persons intended to be massacred (1812) 155
Seventeen years' history, of the life and sufferings of James M'Lean, an impressed American citizen and seaman (1814) 164
A narrative of the captivity and sufferings of John Turner ... among the Ladrones (1814) 180
The life and adventures of Joshua Penny ... who was impressed into the British service (1815) 197
An affecting account of the tragical death of Major Swan, and of the captivity of Mrs. Swan and infant child, by the savages (1815) 239
A concise narrative of the barbarous treatment experienced by American prisoners in England and the West-Indies (1816) 255
An affecting narrative of the captivity and sufferings of Thomas Nicholson ... who was six years a prisoner among the Algerines (1816) 270
A journal of the shipwreck and sufferings of Daniel Foss (1816) 284
Narrative of the tragical death of Mr. Darius Barber, and his seven children, who were inhumanly butchered by the Indians (1818) 299
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