For every large historical topic – and the transatlantic slave trade is certainly a large one – there is a need for good small books to introduce the academic understanding of the topic to students and the general public. The writing of a good small book on a large topic, however, can be no small challenge.
Timing counts for so much in publishing and that is never clearer than when a major anniversary approaches. With the centenary of the First World War not yet actually upon us, there has already been a rush of publications. Meanwhile, just as many of the grandest television and radio programmes promised by the BBC have already been aired. Do we know anything we did not know a year or two ago?
Slavery defined the Atlantic world. African forced labour produced the primary materials that drove European mercantile economies. The plantation complex lay at the core of societies from Brazil and the West Indies to the American mainland and West Africa.
Eslanda Goode Robeson has lived under the shadow of her superstar singer, actor, and political pioneer husband, Paul Robeson for decades. However, Eslanda, known as Essie, was a dedicated activist intellectual, prolific writer, powerful orator, and world traveller.
The Female King of Colonial Nigeria is the story of a woman, Ahebi Ugbabe, who rose from the status of a local girl and commercial sex worker to that of a village headman, a warrant chief and a king. Ahebi was born in Enugu-Ezike, an Igbo community, in the late 19th century.
Once upon a time, as every schoolboy knew, the history of the British Empire was the history of great men.
Peter Garretson’s biography of Warqenah Eshete – Ethiopian statesman, diplomat and occasional businessman – is nothing if not meticulous: drawing extensively on Warqenah’s own autobiography and diary, Garretson succeeds in gathering an enormous amount of detail on the myriad stages of the man’s life and doings, personal and professional.
The past year has seen an embarrassment of riches for those interested in the history of slavery and abolition.
In his first book, Sublime Disorder: Physical Monstrosity in Diderot's Universe (1), Andrew Curran focused on the different means by which corporeal and moral monstrosity were figured and evoked in the celebrated Enlightenment thinker's work.
This is an excellent overview of German colonialism, constructed with some skill from the scholarship on the colonies, and shaped also by the wider debate on European colonialism and its legacies. It is the best survey of the subject in English to date, and will be welcomed by students and scholars alike.