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Indian Ocean Slavery in the Age of Abolition$
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Robert Harms, Bernard K Freamon, and David W. Blight

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780300163872

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300163872.001.0001

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“The Flag That Sets Us Free”

“The Flag That Sets Us Free”

Antislavery, Africans, and the Royal Navy in the Western Indian Ocean

Chapter:
(p.101) 6 “The Flag That Sets Us Free”
Source:
Indian Ocean Slavery in the Age of Abolition
Author(s):

Lindsay Goulton

Publisher:
Yale University Press
DOI:10.12987/yale/9780300163872.003.0006

Chapter 6 argues that, even though the British authored many self-congratulatory accounts of their efforts to free slaves, recent scholarship shows that, for many slaves, freedom was an unachievable reality. It also problematizes the narrative of the Royal Navy as glorified British liberator and establishes that freedom for liberated Africans was shaped more by their “civilizing” ideals. The chapter details many examples where naval officers saw their task as part of a larger imperial mission, with clear interconnectedness between British Christian missionary work and naval slave-trade suppression. It challenges the stereotype that naval interception was a positive experience; rescue was often a traumatic event for African slaves, filled with terror and exacerbating their linguistic isolation, disorientation, and extreme physical and mental illness. The chapter concludes that the history of the naval slave-trade suppression was far more ambiguous, and the lives of freed slaves often paralleled the lives of indentured laborers.

Keywords:   Royal Navy, liberated Africans, Christian missionaries, freedom, naval interception

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