A SLAVER'S LOGBOOK, or 20 Years' Residence in Africa by Captain Theophilius Conneau

A SLAVER'S LOGBOOK, or 20 Years' Residence in Africa

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Conneau was a younger son who got into the slave trade without premeditation: he began as a captain's apprentice and found something more lucrative. In this account of his years as a dealer (1826-46) he appears a model of probity, showing appropriate respect for African chieftains (equal partners in negotiations) and no particular contempt for the souls he acquired. (In fact he diverges from his contemporaries in acknowledging the virtues of native culture and the effects of a little Europeanization,) This is not a ship's log but his recollections years later, previously published in an abridged form under a thin pseudonym in 1854. He hasn't skimped on details; he remembers trips to the interior, a meal of alligator spareribs, the cost of fitting out a vessel, his first native wedding, the significance of the Treaty of Martinez de la Rosa (more slaves in the hold), learning to dance in a military prison--the anecdotes are entertaining. As a businessman Conneau justifies common practices somewhat defensively: an interpreter on board forestalls rebellion but the lash will do if none is available, and the crew gets double pay for daring action. Nevertheless around 1840 he voluntarily gave up trafficking (illegal for years), switched to produce, and retired to West Africa for awhile. Reprinted in its entirety from a recently found manuscript, this gives a fine sense of the scene and 19th-century conventions.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1976
Publisher: Prentice-Hall