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Henry Smeathman, the FlycatcherNatural History, Slavery, and Empire in the Late Eighteenth Century$
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Deirdre Coleman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786940537

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786940537.001.0001

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(p.137) Chapter Five Currency
Henry Smeathman, the Flycatcher

Deirdre Coleman

Liverpool University Press

Since slaves are the chief currency on the coast, and the Banana islands were an important holding place prior to shipping, Smeathman starts trading in them, revealing in his letters the intertwining of natural history with the slave trade and the rise of racial science, the latter bolstered by Linnean classification. Most of this chapter is set on the slave factories of Bunce Island and the Isles de Los, where the Linnaean botanist Anders Berlin dies and where Smeathman further observes the ships’ captains, sailors and surgeons as they load their human cargoes. He also comments on the vicious guns-for-slaves cycle, composing a gothic set-piece on the horror of slavery, but including in this picture the trade’s orderly economy.

Keywords:   Anders Berlin, Bunce Island, Golf and cricket, Isles de Los, slave trade business, ship surgeons

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