J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, September 18, 2022

McBurney on Dark Voyage, 20 and 22 Sept.

Christian McBurney will speak about his new book Dark Voyage: American Privateer's War on Britain's African Slave Trade at two venues this week, both accessible for online viewers.

This book is a microhistory following an American privateer that sailed to the coast of Africa to attack British shipping there—which meant disrupting the British slave trade. The publisher’s copy says:
Based on a little-known contemporary primary source, The Journal of the Good Ship Marlborough, the story of this remarkable voyage is told here for the first time and will have a major impact on our understanding of the Atlantic slave trade and the American Revolution. The voyage of the Marlborough was the brainchild of John Brown, a prominent Rhode Island merchant—and an investor in two slave trading voyages himself. The motivation was not altruistic. The officers and crew of the Marlborough wanted to advance the cause of independence from Britain through harming Britain’s economy, but they also desired to enrich themselves by selling the plunder they captured—including enslaved Africans.

The work of the Marlborough and other American privateers was so disruptive that it led to an unintended consequence: virtually halting the British slave trade. British slave merchants, alarmed at losing money from their ships being captured, invested in many fewer slave voyages. As a result tens of thousands of Africans were not forced onto slave ships, transported to the New World, and consigned to a lifetime of slavery or an early death.
That wartime effect sounds good, but we should also remember that after independence the new U.S. of A. greatly increased the import of humans from Africa, even as some states barred the trade or limited slavery itself. I presume the trade to the British Caribbean also went up after the Treaty of Paris, at least until the next round of wars with the French.

Christian McBurney is author of six books on the American Revolutionary war, including Kidnapping the Enemy, George Washington’s Nemesis, Spies in Revolutionary Rhode Island, and The Rhode Island Campaign. He manages the online journal Small State, Big History, devoted to the history of Rhode Island. And yet he also finds time to practice law in Washington, D.C.

History Author Talks will host an interview with McBurney about Dark Voyage on Tuesday, September 20, at 7:00 P.M. Register for that conversation here.

McBurney will also speak about his new book at the American Revolution Institute in Washington on Tuesday, September 22, starting at 6:30 P.M. That talk will also be streamed on the web for people who can’t attend in person. Register for the feed here.

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