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Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution [Kindle Edition]

Simon Schama
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Rough Crossings is the astonishing story of the struggle to freedom by thousands of African-American slaves who fled the plantations to fight behind British lines in the American War of Independence. With gripping, powerfully vivid story-telling, Simon Schama follows the escaped blacks into the fires of the war, and into freezing, inhospitable Nova Scotia where many who had served the Crown were betrayed in their promises to receive land at the war's end. Their fate became entwined with British abolitionists: inspirational figures such as Granville Sharp, the flute-playing father-figure of slave freedom, and John Clarkson, the 'Moses' of this great exodus, who accompanied the blacks on their final rough crossing to Africa, where they hoped that freedom would finally greet them.

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"This brilliant book by the leading historian of our times about a subject of great significance will delight professional historians and entrance the reading public. Rough Crossings succeeds in all respects. It is a 'tour de force' and a landmark in historical scholarship" (Times Higher Education Supplement)

"Schama's gift for plunging us into the very centre of the action, whether in Charleston, London or on the African coast, makes reading an exhilarating experience" (Daily Telegraph)

"Brilliant and deeply moving" (Observer)

"Schama has a remarkable ability to stare into the anonymous faces in the crowd and to pluck them from historical obscurity. Rough Crossings gives voice to people who have, until now, remained mere names on duty lists" (James Walvin)

"One only has to dip into Rough Crossings to appreciate the command of detail that lies behind his apparently effortless ability to come up with the right quotation or description" (Times Literary Supplement)

Book Description

The astonishing story of the struggle to freedom by thousands of African-American slaves in the American War of Independence

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1440 KB
  • Print Length: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (31 Aug. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00413PIIQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #235,557 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University and the prize-winning author of fourteen books, which have been translated into twenty languages. They include The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age; Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution; Landscape and Memory; Rembrandt's Eyes; the History of Britain trilogy and Rough Crossings, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has written widely on music, art, politics and food for the Guardian, Vogue and the New Yorker. His award-winning television work as writer and presenter for the BBC stretches over two decades and includes the fifteen-part A History of Britain and the eight-part, Emmy-winning Power of Art. The American Future: A History appeared on BBC2 in autumn 2008.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Side of the Slave Trade 10 Jan. 2012
No short review of Rough Crossings by Simon Schama could begin to do it justice. It is far too big a project, far too significant an achievement for any simple summary. It presents a momentous story, highly relevant to our own times, of partial emancipation for the enslaved. The book is not for the faint hearted. For a start there's almost five hundred pages of detailed historical narrative, several distinctly prickly characters to meet and many direct quotes from contemporary documents, complete with the writers' inconsistencies of spelling and grammar. And then there is the raw suffering that it describes. There is real human suffering here, real people who were wronged by others who perpetrated a crime for which they will remain forever unpunished. Balancing this, however, is optimism engendered by the idealism of those who campaigned and worked for freedom and justice, against the convenient populist bigotry of their time. But rising above all others are those whose personal histories are described. These are people who devoted their lives to the undoing of the wrongs that were done to them, who never lost faith in life's eventual ability to deliver justice, despite the repeated contradiction of experience. In the end, it's the enduring human spirit that seems to triumph, despite the lack of any obvious lasting victories. For all concerned, it's a struggle, has always been so and will probably remain so in the future.

Rough Crossings chronicles the politics, warfare, commerce and human experience surrounding the practical application of the campaign to abolish the slave trade. It was Gore Vidal who described several of the founding fathers of the United States as dedicated slave owners, eager to protect their investments.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very educative & entertaining 13 Jan. 2010
Schama has written a very important historical account linking slavery, abolitionists, the American war of independence and leading to the founding of the city of Freetown in Sierraleone in a way and style not seen before. I grew up in The Gambia where I have often wondered as a child where some of the neighbourhood kids with foreign sounding (mostly Scot and English lastnames) names came from or how they got their names, looking just like me, but different names. They belonged to the Aku or Creole group who spoke a language akin to english, and had different manners; generally better educated, more western in demeanour than the rest of us and were generally civil servants, lawyers, doctors, priests etc. I would later come to know of their connection to Freetown and their connection to ex-slaves in the same way Liberia was, but the knowledge of how they came to Freetown was less known to me than the perhaps the americo-liberians.
Schama's Rough crossing, not only filled in the missing gaps, but was full of very important pieces of information about the populations and conditions of black people in London in the late 1700s, the involvement of the clackson brothers in the abolition movement. The account, although shows how important a role wilberfoce played in the London Abolition movement as the advocate in parliament, there were other instrumental figures who commiteed their whole lifes to the pursuits of shaping the English laws to improve the lifes of former slaves in England and the slave colonies. Schame explores extensively the American war of independence and the role of slaves in the fait of that war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grinding History Of A Long Hard Road 11 Jun. 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The story of Britain's treatment of the slaves of American Rebels (and indeed Loyalists) during the American War of Independence has usually been no more than a good excuse to annoy Americans draped in the flag of Liberty. Simon Schama goes into the practical effect of this strategy: the ex-slaves (and freedmen) whose stories are recounted who served in Britain's armies and navy and then moved to (variously) Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone. Their long travails then intermix with the struggle of the Abolitionists in the UK. At every stage malice and innocent folly combine on all sides to produce a rather sorry story of hope deferred. Schama is not content to summarise and to speed us on, instead we follow in detail a cast of hundreds as they struggle for freedom. The only uplifting point was that freedom was, for so many, the most desirable thing they had. A tale therefore for the philosophical and not the easily-depressed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Slavery: More complicated than we're taught 5 Jun. 2015
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Simon Schama demonstrates once again that history is not neat and tidy. The truth is seldom plain and never simple, someone once said. There are many stories to tell which Simon Schama does well, relating individual lives to the bigger picture and, in the process, demonstrates how messy history really is.. There are many surprises in this book, covering angles less (or not) considered by the standard approach. I found myself able to identify with people's lives which changed what I thought and how I felt about it.
Having reread this amazing account, at an apposite moment, given the recent murders in the USA of black people, I began to wonder how much progress has been made. Is American Civil War still being fought? The conflict over the Confederate battle flag hides much darker creatures, suggesting it's not over yet.
To read this masterly work again is to be given encouragement that, no matter what the odds (the black and white champions faced impossible conditions), there is progress. We can live together in harmony. Read it.
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