Author Box
Articles Categories
All Categories
Articles Resources

Another Side of Slavery - Rough Crossings by Simon Schama

January 08, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 162

No short review of Rough Crossings by Simon Schama could begin to do it justice. It is far too big a project, far too significant an achievement for any simple summary. It presents a momentous story, highly relevant to our own times, of partial emancipation for the enslaved. The book is not for the faint hearted. For a start there's almost five hundred pages of detailed historical narrative, several distinctly prickly characters to meet and many direct quotes from contemporary documents, complete with the writers' inconsistencies of spelling and grammar. And then there is the raw suffering that it describes. There is real human suffering here, real people who were wronged by others who perpetrated a crime for which they will remain forever unpunished. Balancing this, however, is optimism engendered by the idealism of those who campaigned and worked for freedom and justice, against the convenient populist bigotry of their time. But rising above all others are those whose personal histories are described. These are people who devoted their lives to the undoing of the wrongs that were done to them, who never lost faith in life's eventual ability to deliver justice, despite the repeated contradiction of experience. In the end, it's the enduring human spirit that seems to triumph, despite the lack of any obvious lasting victories. For all concerned, it's a struggle, has always been so and will probably remain so in the future.

Rough Crossings chronicles the politics, warfare, commerce and human experience surrounding the practical application of the campaign to abolish the slave trade. It was Gore Vidal who described several of the founding fathers of the United States as dedicated slave owners, eager to protect their investments. He thus questions their commitment to their own declarations on freedom and equality. Simon Schama provides much detail to support this theme.

He describes black soldiers fighting for the British, ex-slaves, escapees, collaborators and supporters who sided with the colonial forces. We follow some of these people to the not very hospitable but at least relatively vacant lands of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. And then, via the campaigns and vision of Granville Sharp and the active management of John Clarkson, we follow the development and enactment of a truly magnificent project. The abolitionists, not for any convenience associated with the idea of merely "shipping them back home", but born of a sincere pursuit of freedom and autonomy for human kind, suggest that freed slaves might settle in Sierra Leone and there establish an autonomous, modern and self-supporting state. Not all goes to plan, of course, but then whatever does when idealism is realised? But the plan comes to fruition and communities sail the ocean to establish themselves in warmer climes on West Africa's shore.

An observation offered late in the book will be permanently etched in this reader's memory. The first women ever to participate in electing the government of a modern state were black women in Sierra Leone in the 1790s. Rough Crossings is worth reading for that revelation alone, for it is not the fact itself but the assumptions of the protagonists that led to it that is truly fascinating. How things came about, the motives of those involved and the energy with which they pursued their ideals is the real story, the enduring fascination.

There is far too much in Simon Schama's Rough Crossings to review. There are finely drawn biographies, moving stories of human interest, political posturing and analysis, and a complete history of a commercial enterprise based on idealism. The only advice is to read the book, but also to take time along the way to reflect on what is described, to imagine what issue of our own time would be as politically risky as the applied idealism of these eighteenth century anti-slavery campaigners. And then follow that with any attempt to empathise with the experience of the cargo, whatever the direction of or motive for its transport.

Philip Spires Author of Mission and A Fool's Knot, African novels set in Kenya Migwani is a small town in Kitui District, eastern Kenya. My books examine how social and economic change impact on the lives of ordinary people. They portray characters whose identity is bound up with their home area, but whose futures are determined by the globaised world in which they live.

Source: EzineArticles
Was this Helpful ?

Rate this Article

Article Tags:





Sierra Leone







Finding and collecting vintage comic books for fun and profit is something that is interesting, but can be difficult. With so many places to look, narrowing down the options can be painstaking, until

By: Jorge Orduna l Book Reviews > Comics Humor l July 07, 2012 lViews: 286

Action packed story that reads like you are there in person. Lieutenant Commander Andrew Carlson was a U.S. Navy Seal. He was as rough and tough as they come. He was part of a mission to be inserted

By: Cy Hilterman l Book Reviews > Mysteries Thrillers l July 06, 2012 lViews: 278

"Look Me In The Eye, If You Dare!" Okay, all of You "Internet Millionaire Moguls," I want some answers, and I want them now.

By: Travis L Perkins l Book Reviews > Internet Marketing l June 29, 2012 lViews: 310

Crush it is a great "How to" book on using social media and being real with yourself on what you do. Gary is very passionate about what he does. The key to his success is blending who he is with what

By: Joe Mosed l Book Reviews > Internet Marketing l June 29, 2012 lViews: 547

My resolution this year was to knuckle down and do something to bring in some new clients for my practice, so I was pleased to see that Internet Marketing Bible for Accountants looked like it might

By: Karen K Jefferson l Book Reviews > Internet Marketing l June 29, 2012 lViews: 296

When promoting your business online, are you using internet marketing? If you have yet to spread your branches into the online world, you ought to consider doing so.

By: Joyce McNeill Christopher l Book Reviews > Internet Marketing l June 29, 2012 lViews: 282

A good Civil War naval story as the ships from the north try to track confederate ships, both trying to destroy the other and all ships they find while searching. The locales stretch from the United

By: Cy Hiltermanl Book Reviews > Historyl April 09, 2012 lViews: 213

The title Araba, a word meaning "Let's Separate" or "Let's Dissolve," refers to the Nigerian Civil War which began in 1966 and continued for nearly four years. The word was first used by rioters at a

By: Gary R. Sorkinl Book Reviews > Historyl March 29, 2012 lViews: 187

USA is replete with a number of notable events and relics that have earned a special place in the annals of the nation's history. There are many books in the market that talk about items that will

By: Ivan Rojovskil Book Reviews > Historyl March 14, 2012 lViews: 147

Markland writes a sweeping Norman epic with "Conquering Passion." Rambaud (Ram) de Montbryce is a Norman noble and a trusted assistant to William the Conqueror. His own heart refuses to be tamed

By: Steph Burkhartl Book Reviews > Historyl March 06, 2012 lViews: 146

The North Korean War, Police Action, or Korean Conflict, whichever one would call it, occurred many years ago in the 1950's and has been mostly forgotten except for those that survived, their

By: Cy Hiltermanl Book Reviews > Historyl March 04, 2012 lViews: 181

Vermeer's Hat by Timothy Brook is not really about Vermeer, or hats, or art for that matter. It's a book about globalization sixteenth century-style. Using elements from a few of the Dutchman's

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Historyl February 10, 2012 lViews: 182

In her novel The Seven Sisters Margaret Drabble presents seven women out of the billions that populate their heavens, seven women who come together to act on a project, to share experience and build

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Fictionl June 08, 2012 lViews: 224

Winter In Madrid is a novel set just after Spain's Civil War. Its secret agent plot and thriller style engage the reader, but author C J Sansom also maintains a clear and sensitive political

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Fictionl May 29, 2012 lViews: 193

In terms of setting, Po-on is the start of the Rosales novels, the books that chart Philippine history from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. A peasant Ilocano family finds

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Fictionl May 28, 2012 lViews: 253

Anyone who has not yet visited Barcelona, the Catalan capital, will find Rainer Zerbst's book, Antoni Gaudi could provide the stimulus to make the visit at the first available opportunity. This

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Arts Photographyl April 24, 2012 lViews: 199

The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale is an extremely well written love story. His characters ooze an under-stated middle class confidence, They elegantly populate a story, but their passions are so

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Romancel April 21, 2012 lViews: 156

BBC correspondent John Simpson presents a set of observations and anecdotes drawn from a near lifetime of reporting for television news in A Mad World, My Masters. He covers much of recent history,

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Current Affairsl April 18, 2012 lViews: 195