The Diligent: A Voyage Through the Worlds Of The Slave Trade / Robert Harms

Book Cover The Diligent: A Voyage Through the Worlds Of The Slave Trade
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/ Robert Harms
Publisher: Basic Books
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Sales Rank: 702416
ISBN-10: 0465028721
ISBN-13: 9780465028726

From the 16th to the 19th century, more than 40,000 slave ships plied the waters of the Atlantic, bringing human cargo to the Americas. Drawing on a memoir by a lieutenant, historian Robert Harms tells the story of one such ship, a story that, although shocking to modern readers, "was distressingly ordinary in its own time and place."

Designed to transport grain over short distances, the Diligent was perhaps not the most seaworthy of vessels. Still, by ship's officer Robert Durand's account, it transported nearly 300 victims at a time from the African coast to the French colony of Martinique, often at a terrible cost in life because of disease, malnutrition, and harsh shipboard discipline. Harms carefully reconstructs episodes in the ship's life, including the curious trial that ended its 1731 ocean crossing. More than that, he untangles the complex business of the slave trade, which was far from monolithic, depending instead on ever-shifting alliances and private agendas in the race for profit.

As Harms notes, though more than 17,000 ships' logs from the slaving voyages of the 18th century have been recovered, only a few shed light on daily life aboard those vessels. His troubling narrative does just that, and it gives new evidence of the ordinariness of evil. --Gregory McNamee
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