Murder on the Middle Passage
Title Details

17th April 2020

281 Pages

21.6 x 13.8 cm

10 b/w. Illustrations

Imprint: Boydell Press

Murder on the Middle Passage

The Trial of Captain Kimber

by Nicholas Rogers

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Reviews
How the death of a fifteen-year-old girl aboard the slave ship Recovery shook the British establishment.
On 2 April 1792, John Kimber, captain of the Bristol slave ship Recovery, was denounced in the House of Commons by William Wilberforce for flogging a fifteen-year-old African girl to death. The story, caricatured in a contemporary Isaac Cruikshank print, raced across newspapers in Britain and Ireland and was even reported in America. Soon after, Kimber was indicted for murder - but in a trial lasting just under five hours, he was found not guilty.
This book is a micro-history of this important trial, reconstructing it from accounts of what was said in court and setting it in the context of pro- and anti-slavery movements. Rogers considers contemporary questions of culpability, the use and abuse of evidence, and why Kimber was criminally indicted for murder at a time when kidnapped Africans were generally regarded as 'cargo'. Importantly, the book also looks at the role of sailors in the abolition debate: both in bringing the horrors of the slave trade to public notice and as straw-men for slavery advocates, who excused the treatment of enslaved people by comparing it to punishments meted out to sailors and soldiers.
The final chapter discusses the ways this incident has been used by African-American writers interested in recreating the trauma of the Middle Passage and addresses the question of whether the slave-trade archive can adequately recover the experience of being enslaved.

NICHOLAS ROGERS is Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at York University, Toronto.
Preface
Ship shape, Bristol fashion
The Accusation
The Man and His Crew
The Trial
Abolition and Revolution
Afterthoughts
Appendix
Bibliography
"This was the cold and callous pragmatism that informed so much of British imperial policy; there was no room for sentiment here, and this is the world that Rogers exposes in recounting the death of a teenage girl. It is this history - and not the triumphalist accounts of abolition and later emancipation - that we must heed; it is this history that reveals the darker, shameful, but essential truths of our imperial past." GUARDIAN
"Roger's well-written forensic account of a notorious murder on a slave ship is much more than a case study. It is an important revelation about the very nature of slave trading and the first flush of British abolition. Here is a micro-history exposing the wider realities of Atlantic slavery. JAMES WALVIN is Professor emeritus of History at the University of York and author and editor of over thirty books including Freedom: The Overthrowing of the Slave Empires, Sugar: The World Corrupted, from Slavery to Obesity and Slavery in Small Things: Slavery and Modern Cultural Habits." .

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Title Details

17th April 2020

281 Pages

2.16 x 1.38 cm

10 b/w. Illustrations

Imprint: Boydell Press