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Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution Hardcover – 5 Sep 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books; 1st edition edition (8 Sept. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563487097
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563487098
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 818,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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84 of 87 people found the following review helpful By I. Curry VINE VOICE on 17 Sept. 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Simon Schama is historical royalty. With a lucrative and encompassing deal with the BBC, the ability to cover vast tracts of narrative history and an undoubted command of English he has worked on some of the most interesting projects in documentary history. But this has come at a cost.
Schama's critics have lambasted his descent into popular history, especially his work on the History of Britain. This book can be seen as an academic riposte to those critics. It is in the traditional vein of Schama - sharp, inquiring and totally different to anything he has published before. The ability of the man to write on the golden age of the Dutch Republic, a history of Britain, the French Revolution and art in Western Europe demonstrates the plurality and depth of his interests.
This new work is an altogether bolder departure. It covers a grey and controversial period of history around the American war of independence. In dealing with two countries that have still not resolved their ingrained race relation problems, and confronting the issue of slavery, Schama makes a bold and brave attempt to understand the roots of problems, and uncovers the startling role played by the black slaves in the War of Independence.
While the Founding Fathers were proclaiming the inherent liberty of the freeborn man from the bondage of English tyranny, many themselves were the owners of slaves. The hypocrisy was all too evident for some of the more thoughtful, such as Franklin's proclaimed abhorrence for the practice. But others so no such contradiction in not extending the principles to black people, reserving such universal freedoms for the whites of the continent.
Sensing the potential for creating and utilizing a decisive fifth column, the British promised the blacks liberty.
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70 of 80 people found the following review helpful By David Wineberg on 25 Sept. 2005
Format: Hardcover
There appears to be two kinds of political history: that which is hidden from us completely by the special interests, and that which can be dug up and exposed when it is "safe". Rough Crossings by Simon Shama is of the latter, and will stir up a storm of indignation when it is published in the USA in 2006.
Starting even before the Revolutionary War, so-called American Patriots and the "founding fathers" exhibited the same kind of special interest/self interest that schoolchildren today are taught is beneath public service. Patrick (Give me liberty or give me death!) Henry could not for the life of him understand why he should free his own slaves. Thomas Jefferson's first declaration of independence in 1775 cited the British government's rumored incitement of Negroes to rise up for their freedom as one of the prime movers of the colonies to break free of the tyranny of England.
He was proven right in that tens of thousands of slaves ran away to fight on the British side, against the colonists. The "Patriots" killed every runaway they could find before they got to the English ships. (The same was to occur in 1812, when the British and the Americans clashed again)
The British, who of course taught the Americans everything they knew about slavery in the first place, had only recently begun to abhor it. Using the courts, English activists were able to obtain the freedom of people who were being captured in England to be shipped off to sugar plantations. The British public, caught up in this humanitarian, headline-making campaign, was offended by the tyranny of the Americans, just as the Americans were offended by the tyranny of the British in things like taxation. The result was armed conflict.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover
After having been quite disappointed in some of Schama's work, this is vindication of his powers - breadth, depth and passion has gone into this book, telling the terrible story of the slave trade, the politics of British and American forces and the battles fought on both sides. Coming to this story with only a partial knowledge, no more enlightening than a vague unease, and redolent with the extraordinary silence as to the part played by the slaves themselves. This is a book that puts to shame the weasel manouevering of both sides in their efforts to hang onto the status quo - especially those who wanted to continue the practices of slavery. From the Boston Tea Party onwards American desires were settled upon independence and the colonists had support from the French, Dutch and Spanish forces (hoping for pickings) which revolted against the British, fighting a mainly guerrilla campaign. In 1776 the Declaration of Independence was signed. In 1783 with the failure of the campaign in the South, Cornwallis surrendered to Washington.

But there was a larger issue to be put to the test and that was what to do with the thousands of black soldiers who had (mostly) fought on the side of the British. It was believed that if a black person got to England, he would be free. But this reckoned without the chaos which ensued and only a few actually made it and managed to keep their freedom. Among them were the black and white loyalists who got to Nova Scotia and settled there, and those who embarked for Sierra Leone.

In 1807 the British Government abolished the slave trade across their Empire. The importation of slaves to the USA was prohibited in America by Act of Congress.
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