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The Diligent: A Voyage Through the Worlds of the Slave Trade
2003 J. Anthony Lukas Prize for Nonfiction
Synopses & Reviews
The slave trade is one of the best known yet least understood processes in our history. The popular image of traders in slave ships going to Africa and rounding up slaves as if they were cattle is not only historically inaccurate, it also disguises the fact that the slave trade was a highly organized Atlantic-wide system that required close collaboration at the highest levels of government in Europe, Africa, and the New World. Using the private journal of First Lieutenant Robert Durand, and supplementing it with a wealth of archival research, Yale historian Robert Harms re-creates in astonishing detail the voyage of the French slave ship The Diligent.We have histories of the slave trade, most recently Hugh Thomas's massive and authoritative The Slave Trade, but The Diligent is something entirely different: a deep bore into the economic, political, and moral worldviews of the participants on all sides of the trade, complete with a vivid dramatis personae. Nobody who reads this book will ever look at the slave trade in the same way again.
"A good old-fashioned narrative strongly flavored with interesting and easily verified details....[S]imply presents the unmistakable brutality, human waste, and everyday capitalist contradictions of the slave trade in its simplest terms....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." H Net Book Review
Book News Annotation:
Harms (history, Yale) uses a mariner's journal and other archival sources to reconstruct the voyage of the slave ship Diligent. The journal, Harms writes, "tells the story of a great crime. It began with the departure of a converted grain ship from the French city of Vannes on May 31, 1731, and it ended with the trial of the Diligent's captain ... in February 1733. During the course of the Diligent's voyage to West Africa and the Caribbean, the lives of 256 West Africans were ruined or ended, and four of the ship's crew members died." The Atlantic voyage was one of about 40,000 that forced more than 11 million captives from Africa; Harms's dramatic telling pursues the local interests and contexts that shaped the slave trade's trajectory.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Based on an officer's diary, a vivid and unprecedented account of the voyage of one slave trading ship-The Diligent-and the worlds through which it sailed.
About the Author
Robert Harms is Professor of History at Yale University. He is a former director of the Yale African Studies Program and a member of the Board of the U.S. African Studies Association. He is the author of two books on Africa: River of Wealth, River of Sorrow and Games Against Nature. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
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