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Envoys of abolitionBritish Naval Officers and the Campaign Against the Slave Trade in West Africa$
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Mary Wills

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620788

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620788.001.0001

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Prize voyages and ideas of freedom

Prize voyages and ideas of freedom

(p.97) 4 Prize voyages and ideas of freedom
Envoys of abolition

Mary Wills

Liverpool University Press

To witness the human trauma of the transatlantic slave trade was extraordinary employment for British naval officers, and this chapter examines rare surviving accounts of life on prize voyages, whereby naval officers were tasked with transporting captured slave ships to Admiralty courts for adjudication. It explores the extent to which officers engaged with the individuals they were ‘liberating’ – on captured slavers, on HM ships, or while stationed at the British territories of Sierra Leone or St Helena. Officers’ ideas about freedom, its limits, and its applicability to African people were concepts bound to racial attitudes. A prize voyage could constitute an alternative ‘Middle Passage’ for captive Africans, a state of affairs naval officers could contribute to. This chapter looks at the experiences of captive Africans, and at cases where individual Africans were taken into British guardianship by naval officers.

Keywords:   Slave trade, Prize voyage, Freedom, Middle Passage, Captive Africans, Naval officers, Slave ship

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