Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World

Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World

Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World

Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World

Synopsis

This groundbreaking book presents a global perspective on the history of forced migration over three centuries and illuminates the centrality of these vast movements of people in the making of the modern world. Highly original essays from renowned international scholars trace the history of slaves, indentured servants, transported convicts, bonded soldiers, trafficked women, and coolie and Kanaka labor across the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans. They depict the cruelty of the captivity, torture, terror, and death involved in the shipping of human cargo over the waterways of the world, which continues unabated to this day. At the same time, these essays highlight the forms of resistance and cultural creativity that have emerged from this violent history. Together, the essays accomplish what no single author could provide: a truly global context for understanding the experience of men, women, and children forced into the violent and alienating experience of bonded labor in a strange new world. This pioneering volume also begins to chart a new role of the sea as a key site where history is made.

Excerpt

Marcus rediker, cassandra pybus, and emma christopher

The “MIDDLE PASSAGE” is an old maritime phrase, dating to the heyday of the Atlantic slave trade. It designated the bottom line of a trading triangle, between the “outward passage” from Europe to Africa and the “homeward passage” from the Americas back to Europe. the Oxford English Dictionary notes the first maritime usage as 1788, by the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson. the phrase is older than that, but by crediting Clarkson another truth is revealed: through a broad-based social movement, those who campaigned to abolish the slave trade made the middle passage notorious and a part of popular vocabulary in their own time and thereafter. Drawing upon and publicizing the gruesome social conditions and the fierce resistance by enslaved Africans aboard the slave ships, the abolitionists managed to focus attention on a reality far beyond the shores of most people’s experience and to make real the horrors of the middle passage to a metropolitan reading public.

This was in itself a great achievement, not least because most people in the eighteenth century, like most people today, tended to regard as real only the land—and national—spaces of the earth’s surface. the oceans were vast, ahistorical voids. of course, maritime exploration and discovery showed that history happened on the oceans, as did the naval battles that determined the course of history. But explorers and admirals were incorporated into top-down, national, and “terra-centric” narratives, even when the seaborne agents who made the discoveries and battles possible were a . . .

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