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Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution (2005)

by Simon Schama

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1,0011615,974 (3.85)53
In response to a declaration by the last royal governor of Virginia that any rebel-owned slave who escaped and served the King would be emancipated, tens of thousands of slaves--Americans who clung to the sentimental notion of British freedom--escaped from farms, plantations and cities to try to reach the British camp. This mass movement lasted as long as the war did, and a military strategy originally designed to break the plantations of the American South had unleashed one of the great exoduses in American history. Schama details the odyssey of the escaped blacks through the fires of war and the terror of potential recapture at the war's end, into inhospitable Nova Scotia, where thousands who had served the Crown were betrayed and, in a little-known hegira of the slave epic, sent across the broad, stormy ocean to Sierra Leone.--From publisher description.̓… (more)
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» See also 53 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Not the most enjoyable of Schama's books, but very instructive. A good lesson for those who would issue a blanket condemnation of the American South, since it illustrates how widely the evils of slavery permeated elsewhere, too. Eye. Beam. Mote. etc. ( )
  cpg | May 21, 2019 |
Fantastic - but tough read. Well researched; learned a lot more about our founding fathers and how hypocritical they were. Race relations have changed but not nearly as far as we would think. Should be required reading. ( )
1 vote busterrll | Jun 12, 2015 |
Schama is a master in telling this story of harrowing suffering and determination, of benevolence and unspeakable cruelty humans are capable of inflicting on each other, of the determination of, first, a handful of British abolitionists to end slavery and their final success, after many years, to convince Parliament to outlaw this abhorrent practice (although, of course, it still flourishes all over the world today). But also of human inconsistency and frailty of mind even among these men. Of broken promises, of romanticizing the British attitude at times, of the momentous fact “that [in the election for ‘tithingmen’ held 1792 in Sierra Leone] the first women to cast their votes of any kind of public office anywhere in the world were black, liberated slaves” (p.431), of the hypocrisy that is the ‘Declaration of Independence’:- in the words Frederick Douglass spoke 1846 in London: “[The founding fathers] made here the clearest assertions of the rights of man and yet at that very time the identical men who drew up the Declaration of Independence and framed the American democratic constitution, were trafficking in the blood and souls of their fellow men …” (482).

Everybody in the English-speaking world and beyond should be familiar with this part of US-American, British and African history and Schama’s fascinating account provides informative and easily readable access. The editing of this edition is exemplary with a one-line characterization of the main protagonists (‘Dramatis Personae’) as well as an Index – I referred often to both – , the text well documented with ‘Notes and References’ and ‘Further Reading’ sections. (I-14)

(III-18): Just read that - until 2015 (!) - generations of British taxpayers had been paying off a loan taken out in 1833 that had been used to compensate slave owners, rather than slaves. "Generations of Britons have been implicated in a legacy of financial support for one of the world’s most egregious crimes against humanity." https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/29/slavery-abolition-compensation-when... ( )
1 vote MeisterPfriem | Jan 29, 2014 |
Brilliant. Reads like a novel, but deeply researched. Sense of characters, their ridealsms and hypocrisies, as well as strong story and vivid word pictures. i really wanted to know what would happen next in this neglected corner of history. Some surprising firsts - votes for women , black political manifesto and more - in the events following the War of Independence. The central mauvais foi of that event as pointed out by dr Johnson ( the vociferous assertion of liberty by slave owners) is well described; and how blacks came in droves to the sheltering wing of King George, seeing England as the guarantor of their freedom, while the views and actions of British individuals was considerably more nuanced. But there was also heroism and self sacrifice by at least one Brit, which is heartwarming to read of. ( )
  vguy | Aug 2, 2013 |
Really interesting history of African-Americans (and some Africans as well) who escaped slavery during/because of the American Revolution—some of them escaping from men who signed the Declaration of Independence. Schama follows them to Canada and Sierra Leone, where they rarely got what they were promised from the British but never stopped seeking freedom and security. ( )
  rivkat | Apr 16, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Always a master storyteller, Schama — an Englishman who has long made his home in the United States — has woven the strands laid out by those who went before him into an epic work that gets the reader's blood rushing as it debunks the traditional American view of the Revolution. Schama throws more than a few bombs along the way, as when he writes of the Southern slave owners: "Theirs was a revolution, first and foremost, mobilized to protect slavery."
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Brent Staples (Jul 15, 2011)
 

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In response to a declaration by the last royal governor of Virginia that any rebel-owned slave who escaped and served the King would be emancipated, tens of thousands of slaves--Americans who clung to the sentimental notion of British freedom--escaped from farms, plantations and cities to try to reach the British camp. This mass movement lasted as long as the war did, and a military strategy originally designed to break the plantations of the American South had unleashed one of the great exoduses in American history. Schama details the odyssey of the escaped blacks through the fires of war and the terror of potential recapture at the war's end, into inhospitable Nova Scotia, where thousands who had served the Crown were betrayed and, in a little-known hegira of the slave epic, sent across the broad, stormy ocean to Sierra Leone.--From publisher description.̓

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