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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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Encounters with Africa

Encounters with Africa

(p.133) 5 Encounters with Africa
Envoys of abolition

Mary Wills

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines cultural encounters between British naval officers and West African peoples, and the role of racial attitudes and identity therein. It looks at the persistence or mutability of value sets taken out to Africa, and the resulting dialogues on race, ethnicity, identity and benevolence within the naval community. To an extent, naval officers perceived West Africans through the lens of metropolitan attitudes and many observations subscribed to common racial prejudices; yet others were more considered, born of experience, interaction and affiliation. This chapter examines officers’ encounters with the ‘exotic’ African women they met on their travels and their engagement with African cultures. As the century progressed, increasing contact with African peoples contributed to a shift in racial attitudes, fuelled by new scientific theories and the proliferation of printed material about race.

Keywords:   West Africa, Race, Ethnicity, Prejudice, Women, African cultures, Naval officers

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