Book Review: ‘Squadron: Ending the African slave trade’ by Clifford J. Pereira

By Clifford J. Pereira, published January 2021


It is refreshing to read an abolitionary narrative that is not focused on the Atlantic, but instead on the much older and longer-lasting Indian Ocean trade in enslaved Africans. Author John Broich takes an interesting though challenging angle, preferring to anchor the narrative around four personalities: Leopold Heath, George Sulivan, Edward Meara and Philip Colomb.

There are a few minor errors that may distract the scholarly reader, but this is an otherwise enthralling personality-based perspective of a campaign that occupied the Royal Navy for almost a century after the familiar Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

For scholars of the slave trade in general, the book offers a very different scenario to that of the Atlantic slave trade on many levels, including the multi-ethnic nature of the financiers, raiders, traders, and ultimately the buyers. The book also touches on the multi-ethnic nature of the enslaved in the Indian Ocean world.

Squadron should be of interest for those interested in the histories of eastern Africa and the Mascarene Islands and one hopes it is readily available in those areas.

Researching such a story from private and public archival sources is no easy task and requires an almost journalistic skill to write this sort of historical narrative while not making for dry reading. From these perspectives Broich has executed a well-written book that is difficult to put down when you get into it …

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Filed under: Nineteenth Century | Other (Nineteenth C) | Indian Ocean
Subjects include: Miscellaneous | Navies

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