Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600-1850

Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600-1850

Linda Colley

Language: English

Pages: 464

ISBN: 0385721463

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In this path-breaking book Linda Colley reappraises the rise of the biggest empire in global history. Excavating the lives of some of the multitudes of Britons held captive in the lands their own rulers sought to conquer, Colley also offers an intimate understanding of the peoples and cultures of the Mediterranean, North America, India, and Afghanistan.

Here are harrowing, sometimes poignant stories by soldiers and sailors and their womenfolk, by traders and con men and by white as well as black slaves. By exploring these forgotten captives – and their captors – Colley reveals how Britain’s emerging empire was often tentative and subject to profound insecurities and limitations. She evokes how British empire was experienced by the mass of poor whites who created it. She shows how imperial racism coexisted with cross-cultural collaborations, and how the gulf between Protestantism and Islam, which some have viewed as central to this empire, was often smaller than expected. Brilliantly written and richly illustrated, Captives is an invitation to think again about a piece of history too often viewed in the same old way. It is also a powerful contribution to current debates about the meanings, persistence, and drawbacks of empire.

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None the less, between Waterloo and 1914, neither Britain nor any other European power experienced conflict on anything like the scale of the Seven Years War or the Napoleonic Wars. And never in this period was Britain confronted with a confederation of Western powers bent on attacking its colonial outposts, as it had been in the American Revolutionary War, and would be again after 1914. The profit and the price of this hundred-year partial European peace was unprecedented Western, and especially.

Sufferings of enslaved blacks in Britain’s colonies worked to illumine as well the plight of its own white multitudes, and not least the plight of its common soldiers and sailors.52 Those who were most active and risked most in defending and extending the bounds of the British empire – its plebeian warriors – were increasingly represented in this period, and increasingly viewed themselves, as being in some respects comparable to black slaves. The very vehemence with which spokesmen for the.

Them seem far more immediate and engrossing to their countrymen at large. The fate of the captives, judged one British magazine in 1843, had ‘excited more interest in the mother country than all the other events of the war’. ‘The history of the world’, declared the Illustrated London News, in an article that same year on the Kabul captives, ‘barely contains scenes of more terrific interest.’ So great was the public clamour, that the politicians were left with little choice but to act. In the wake.

Survive to be freed. In the mid-seventeenth century, one in every five European captives held in Tripoli is known to have died every year. By the eighteenth century, the death-rate among Barbary captives was lower, except in plague years, but it remained substantial. A list of 263 British and colonial American captives in Morocco between 1714 and 1719 shows that fifty-three of these men died over this five-year period: just over 20 per cent of the total number detained. This same list also.

Shackles and in fear of his life in Newgate prison. 1 It may be that Rich saw in Troughton and his worn-out companions an opportunity to revisit imprisonment and its metaphors. For just as the criminal underworld as evoked in The Beggar’s Opera was also an attack on corruption in high places, so the spectacle of redeemed but suffering Barbary captives was more than ephemeral sensationalism. Behind the clanking chains, and the men’s own eagerness to please and make a little money, was a political.

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