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The Empire of Necessity

Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World

Grandin, Greg, 1962-

(Book - 2014)
Average Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
The Empire of Necessity
Baker & Taylor
Documents an extraordinary early nineteenth-century event that inspired Herman Melville's "Beneto Cereno," tracing the cultural, economic, and religious clash that occurred aboard a distressed Spanish ship of West African pirates.

McMillan Palgrave

From the acclaimed author of Fordlandia, the story of a remarkable slave rebellion that illuminates America’s struggle with slavery and freedom during the Age of Revolution and beyond

One morning in 1805, off a remote island in the South Pacific, Captain Amasa Delano, a New England seal hunter, climbed aboard a distressed Spanish ship carrying scores of West Africans he thought were slaves. They weren’t. Having earlier seized control of the vessel and slaughtered most of the crew, they were staging an elaborate ruse, acting as if they were humble servants. When Delano, an idealistic, anti-slavery republican, finally realized the deception, he responded with explosive violence.

Drawing on research on four continents, The Empire of Necessity explores the multiple forces that culminated in this extraordinary event—an event that already inspired Herman Melville’s masterpiece Benito Cereno. Now historian Greg Grandin, with the gripping storytelling that was praised in Fordlandia, uses the dramatic happenings of that day to map a new transnational history of slavery in the Americas, capturing the clash of peoples, economies, and faiths that was the New World in the early 1800s.

& Taylor

The author of Fordlandia documents an extraordinary early 19th-century event that inspired Herman Melville's Beneto Cereno, tracing the cultural, economic and religious clashes that occurred aboard a distressed Spanish ship of West African pirates. 50,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York :, Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company,, 2014
Edition: First Edition
ISBN: 9780805094534
Branch Call Number: 306.362 G
Characteristics: xiv, 360 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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When I went to school, learning History was about dates, battles, treaties and Kings and Queens. Mr. Greg Grandin's book on slavery in The 19th Century taught me more about "Real Politic" than anything I learned at school. We were taught that in 1776, America became The Land of the Free. Mr. Grandin informs us that 5 million slaves were sent to America after 1776! We learned that the French Revolution was about Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. Mr. Grandin writes that after 1795, The French disposed of Kings,plundered colonies and democratized slave piracy. This book deserves to be on every school's reading list. I sure wish it had been on mine. 5/5

Dec 17, 2014
  • Hopalong_Kid rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

One of the best books I've read in 2014. This thought provoking tale of a single historic event, a slave mutiny aboard a slave ship off South America, reflects the early 19th century slave trade, when at that time 'free trade' meant the freedom to engage in the slave trade. Also a must read for Herman Melville fans.


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Grandin, Greg, 1962-
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