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Freedom's Debt: The Royal African Company and the Politics of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1672-1752

Freedom's Debt: The Royal African Company and the Politics of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1672-1752

by William A. Pettigrew

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In the years following the Glorious Revolution, independent slave traders challenged the charter of the Royal African Company by asserting their natural rights as Britons to trade freely in enslaved Africans. In this comprehensive history of the rise and fall of the RAC, William A. Pettigrew grounds the transatlantic slave trade in politics, not economic forces, analyzing the ideological arguments of the RAC and its opponents in Parliament and in public debate. Ultimately, Pettigrew powerfully reasons that freedom became the rallying cry for those who wished to participate in the slave trade and therefore bolstered the expansion of the largest intercontinental forced migration in history.
Unlike previous histories of the RAC, Pettigrew's study pursues the Company's story beyond the trade's complete deregulation in 1712 to its demise in 1752. Opening the trade led to its escalation, which provided a reliable supply of enslaved Africans to the mainland American colonies, thus playing a critical part in entrenching African slavery as the colonies' preferred solution to the American problem of labor supply.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469611822
Publisher: Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 12/30/2013
Series: Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

William A. Pettigrew is lecturer in history at the University of Kent.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Tables ix

Prologue: "This African Monster" 1

Part 1 Deregulation, 1672-1712

1 The Politics of Slave-Trade Escalation, 1672-1712 11

2 The Interests: "A Well-Governed Army of Veteran Troops" versus "an Undefinable Heteroclite Body" of "Pirates" and "Buccaneers" 45

3 The Ideas: Challenging the "Tales of… Mandevil" 83

4 The Strategies: "As Witches Do the Devil" 115

Part 2 Re-regulation, 1712-1752

5 The Outcomes: Tropical Burlesques 153

6 The Legacies: Free to Enslave 179

Epilogue: Confused Commemorations 211

Appendix 1 Data Supplements for Annual Slave-Trading Voyages, 1672-1752 219

Appendix 2 A Directory of Independent Slave Traders, 1672-1712 227

Appendix 3 A Directory of Lobbying Independent Traders, 1678-1713 235

Appendix 4 A Directory of Royal African Company Directors, 1672-1750 237

Appendix 5 Africa Trade Petitions to Parliament on the Royal African Company's Monopoly, 1690-1752 240

Acknowledgments 247

Index 249

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

For the first time, the origins of the British slave trade receive the searching inquiry they long have deserved. With Freedom's Debt, Pettigrew tells a new story about the political foundations of the traffic as well as the ideological seeds of its dissolution.—Christopher Leslie Brown, Columbia University

With startling precision, Pettigrew reveals the role of liberal political and market institutions in bringing about the massive eighteenth-century acceleration of the British Atlantic slave trade. All of us must ponder this deeply researched account of how 'a distinctively British conception of freedom' drove the expansion of slavery.—Christopher Tomlins, University of California, Irvine

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