U. Schmieder u.a. (Hrsg.): The End of Slavery in Africa and the Americas

The End of Slavery in Africa and the Americas. A Comparative Approach

Schmieder, Ulrike; Füllberg-Stolberg, Katja; Zeuske, Michael
Sklaverei und Postemanzipation/ Slavery and Postemancipation/Esclavitud y postemancipación 4
Berlin 2011: LIT Verlag
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169 S.
€ 29.90
Rezensiert für 'Connections' und H-Soz-Kult von:
Sue Peabody, Washington State University Vancouver

This slim volume of seven essays is based on two conferences on slavery and post-slavery hosted by the University of Hanover and the University of Cologne in 2008. The thematic unity of slavery and emancipation encompasses a very diverse range of topics, regions and approaches. All of the essays are published in English and demonstrate engagement with recent British and American scholarship, utilizing contemporary historical methodologies and modes, including world history, microhistory, and cultural history.

The essays follow a brief, functional introduction by the editors. Silke Strickrodt models her study of the Togo port of Little Popo (now Aného), 1680s to 1860s, on Donald R. Wright’s The World and a Very Small Place in Africa1, examining its economic history as a provisions port to Europeans, rather than a major supplier of slaves. Patrick Harries focuses on Spanish and Portuguese involvement in the Mozambique slave trade in the 1830s in violation of the British anti-slave trade ban. Michael Zeuske analyzes the power relations inherent in the naming of slaves in Cuba over the longue durée (1526-1888). Claus Füllberg-Stolberg studies Moravian missionaries’ approaches to slavery and abolition in the British, French and Dutch Caribbean in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Swithin R. Wilmot analyzes black political participation in Jamaica in the decades immediately following emancipation. Ulricke Schmeider’s comparative analysis of emancipation in Cuba and Martinique places local, microhistorical case studies within the larger world historical processes of emancipation and political change, from the Haitian Revolution through the late nineteenth century. Norbert Finzsch examines changes in the labor regime in the United States South following Emancipation. Jan-Georg Deutsch’s excellent conclusion frames the theoretical problems inherent in comparative study of slavery and emancipation, emphasizing the wide variety of conditions subsumed under the terms “slavery” and “freedom” that can make such comparisons inaccurate or misleading. Given the broad expanse of time and space, it is unfortunate that the volume is not indexed; nor is there a comprehensive bibliography.

Such a disparate set of essays poses challenges for a review. Nevertheless, certain emphases and methodological approaches help to give unity to the volume. First, there is the question of scale. Strickrodt’s, Zeuske’s and Schmeider’s essays explicitly seek to link local manifestations of slavery, resistance and abolition with wider global political and economic processes; they move between micro- and macro- historical narratives, much like Rebecca J. Scott’s Degrees of Freedom, to highlight the immediate impact of these forces on laborers and other subalterns.2 Similarly, several essays in this volume reject national/ imperial boundaries for their studies; Harries, Füllberg-Stolberg, and Schmieder draw from multiple imperial zones within particular regions to provide a more comprehensive or comparative approach to their subjects. (Harries might find the examination of French smuggling a useful point of triangulation for analyzing British suppression of the slave trade in East Africa.3) The essays by Wilmot and Finzsch are more conventional in their approaches, being limited to specific national/local contexts and historiographies.

Together, these essays highlight a new generation of scholarship on slavery and post-emancipation Atlantic history emerging in northern European universities that is worthy of attention worldwide.

1 Donald R. Wright, The World and a Very Small Place in Africa. A history of Globalization in Niumi The Gambia, 2nd ed., Armonk 2004 (1997).
2 Rebecca J. Scott, Degrees of Freedom. Louisiana and Cuba after Slavery, Cambridge, Mass. 2005.
3 See, for example, Richard B. Allen, Suppressing a Nefarious Traffic. Britain and the Abolition of Slave Trading in India and the Western Indian Ocean, 1770-1830, in: William & Mary Quarterly 66 (2009) 4, p. 873-894.

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