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Sweet Water and Bitter
The Ships That Stopped the Slave Trade
Siân Rees




University of New Hampshire Press
2011 • 360 pp. 12 illus., 1 map. 6 x 9"
Naval History / Slavery / Africa


$27.95 Hardcover, 978-1-58465-980-8

$19.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-017-1

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

For sale in the US and its dependencies only


“What more can you ask of written history? Oxford scholar Sian Rees’ Sweet Water and Bitter is a well-researched narrative of an epic saga little known here—Britain’s attempt to abolish all transatlantic slave trade in the 1800s—interwoven with smashing high-seas adventure worthy of Patrick O’Brian.”Newcity Lit

The little-known story of the Royal Navy squadron that patrolled the African coast for fifty years, capturing vessels and emancipating slaves

In 1807, at the height of the Napoleonic war, ships of nearly all the European nations crowded the malarial wharves of West Africa where merchants traded at the great slaveholding pens and packed their human property into ships’ holds bound for the sugar mills of Cuba and Haiti, and the tobacco plantations of Virginia.

In that same year Great Britain passed the Abolition Act, and the last English slave ship left the African coast with her cargo, shortly to be replaced by the ships and men of the Royal Navy’s Preventive Squadron. For the next fifty years this small fleet patrolled 3,000 miles of treacherous coastline in a determined, unilateral, and only quasi-legal effort to interdict vessels with their human cargoes.

The squadron lost more than 17,000 men to disease, conflict, and varied misfortunes, but they liberated more than 150,000 African slaves, and slowly—through negotiation, intimidation, and military and diplomatic triumphs and setbacks—they helped put an end to the rich, shameful, “peculiar institution” of European and American trade in West African slaves. Through firsthand accounts of naval adventures, ship-to-ship actions, bold raids into the interior, and daily life at sea, Siân Rees brilliantly colors this huge canvas in a series of vivid portraits of the men and officers of the Preventive Squadron. Sweet Water and Bitter is a moving chronicle of suffering, exploitation, and one nation’s determination to suppress slavery.

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Reviews:

“A study of the Royal Navy Preventive Squadron, a small fleet of ships that captured slave ships along the African coast and emancipated their captives in the era after Britain abolished slavery.”Chronicle of Higher Education

“Rees presents a well-researched account of Britain’s attempt to stem the Atlantic slave trade by creating the Preventive Squadron to enforce the 1807 Abolition Act. . . . Her use of case histories and personal narratives make this an especially engrossing read. Readers not well acquainted with African geography and nautical nomenclature may find the myriad details overwhelming, but Rees does an overall solid job of crafting a readable but dense narrative for serious readers. . . . Rees presents a little-known but historically significant chapter in nautical and slavery history, an important addition to 19th-century studies. Recommended to students and informed lay readers in British history and African geography.” Library Journal

"The good news is that trafficking in persons today is probably less profitable than slavery was in the 19th century or drugs are in the 21st. . . . We can reasonably hope to see modern-day slavery dramatically diminished in our lifetime, but we need the sobriety that Sweet Water and Bitter provides."—Books and Culture

Endorsements:

“Rees is a gifted writer with a wry turn of phrase . . . Hers is a packed history of bounty-hunting and piracy, of high principle and low skullduggery, of roiling surf and disease-infested swamps, and of the seemingly endless African coast.”—The Daily Telegraph



SIÂN REES grew up around boats and shipyards in Cornwall. She read modern history at Oxford, has traveled widely, and is the author of the bestsellers The Floating Brothel and The Ship Thieves. She lives in Brighton, England.






Wed, 5 Nov 2014 15:33:38 -0500