Synopses & Reviews
In Mastering the Niger, David Lambert recalls Scotsman James MacQueen (1778andndash;1870) and his publication of A New Map of Africa in 1841 to show that Atlantic slaveryandmdash;as a practice of subjugation, a source of wealth, and a focus of political struggleandmdash;was entangled with the production, circulation, and reception of geographical knowledge. The British empire banned the slave trade in 1807 and abolished slavery itself in 1833, creating a need for a new British imperial economy. Without ever setting foot on the continent, MacQueen took on the task of solving the andldquo;Niger problem,andrdquo; that is, to successfully map the course of the river and its tributaries, and thus breathe life into his scheme for the exploration, colonization, and commercial exploitation of West Africa.and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;Lambert illustrates how MacQueenandrsquo;s geographical research began, four decades before the publication of the New Map, when he was managing a sugar estate on the West Indian colony of Grenada. There MacQueen encountered slaves with firsthand knowledge of West Africa, whose accounts would form the basis of his geographical claims. Lambert examines the inspirations and foundations for MacQueenandrsquo;s geographical theory as well as its reception, arguing that Atlantic slavery and ideas for alternatives to it helped produce geographical knowledge, while geographical discourse informed the struggle over slavery.
andldquo;What Mastering the Niger
achieves is hugely impressive as a contribution to the history of geographical thought, the history of slavery and abolitionism, and Atlantic history.andrdquo;
andldquo;With Mastering the Niger
, David Lambert uncovers profound and unexpected connections between proslavery politics in the British Caribbean and abolitionist interest in West African geography. In Lambertandrsquo;s skillful treatment, James MacQueen comes to embody the contradictions of the era. A nearly unprecedented integration of the histories of slavery, empire, geography, colonization, and the history of scienceandmdash;each looks a bit different after this landmark work.andrdquo;
andldquo;James MacQueen never went to Africa but he solved one of the great mysteries of nineteenth-century geographyandmdash;proving that the mighty Niger River terminated in the Atlantic rather than in the eastandmdash;through ingenious study of diverse materials and through close interrogation of enslaved people under his control on a Grenadian plantation. David Lambertandrsquo;s rich and rewarding study of MacQueen and the Atlantic slave system he supported tell us new and important things about how geographical knowledge was produced. The great age of African exploration and Atlantic slavery were inextricably linked, as Lambert shows with admirable skill and energy.andrdquo;
andldquo;If you want to know what the new history of knowledge looks like, read Mastering the Niger
. Ranging from Glasgow to Grenada, David Lambert adapts the sociology of scientific knowledge to examine how the Gradgrind of African geography, James MacQueen, made maps, statistics, tables, and lists count as brute facts in favor of colonization. He reconstructs the role of enslaved knowledges in British geographies of the Niger, while showing how debates over the Niger and colonial policy were always about the contentious authority of fluid and rival forms of geography itself. This crucial connective work draws theoretical knowledge and commercial practice together into a new history of expertise, showing how the techniques of enlightened rationality often served the interests of empire.andrdquo;
“A very interesting study of discovering the Niger. Recommended.” G. J. Martin, Southern Connecticut State University
and#8220;A very interesting study of discovering the Niger. Recommended.and#8221;
and#8220;Mastering the Niger is a skilful, scholarly, and authoritative work, one which demonstrates the authority vested in official and unofficial forms of geographical knowledge and which shows how geographical knowledge about the Niger was, vitally, deeply implicated in that commerce in sugar, slaves, and money which linked west Africa, Caribbean plantations, counting houses in Glasgow, and the uncertainties on maps as to which way the river ran and where it met its end.and#8221;
About the Author
David Lambert is a reader of Caribbean history in the Department of History at the University of Warwick, UK, and director of the Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies. He is the author of White Creole Culture, Politics and Identity during the Age of Abolition and coeditor of Colonial Lives Across the British Empire. He lives in Reading, UK.
Table of Contents
List of Figuresand#160;Chapter 1and#160;and#160; Mastering the Nigerand#160;Part 1: SourcesChapter 2and#160;and#160; andldquo;Mr. Parkandrsquo;s Bookandrdquo; and the Niger ProblemChapter 3and#160;and#160; Keeping Account of Atlantic CommerceChapter 4and#160;and#160; Captive Knowledgeand#160;Part 2: CoursesChapter 5and#160;and#160; Credibility and Truth Making in the Atlantic WorldChapter 6and#160;and#160; Surveying Sierra LeoneChapter 7and#160;and#160; Thomas Fowell Buxton and the Niger Expeditionand#160;Part 3: TerminationChapter 8and#160;and#160; Beyond the Nigerand#160;AcknowledgmentsList of AbbreviationsNotesBibliographyIndex