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The Empire of Necessity

Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World

Greg Grandin

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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.

Publishers Weekly Review

Oct 07, 2013 – This dark yarn is simultaneously a philosophical, sociological, and literary inquiry, as the historic facts of an 1804 maritime slave rebellion interact dialectically with Benito Cereno, Melville’s novel inspired by the revolt. Through rich contextualization, the central events are understood as both singular and allegorical for the surrounding social milieu. As Melville wrote about “slavery as a proxy for the human condition,” Grandin (Fordlandia) addresses the encounter of Amasa Delano, a New England seal hunter, with the rebelling West African slaves and their Spanish hostage as a proxy for the manifold forces intersecting in the development of the New World. Delano, described by Grandin as a sort of “republican Zelig,” embodies the ethical dilemma of antebellum America, contemplating freedom while mired in a system enabled by slavery. Less biographical information is available for the Africans, but Grandin infers that the “inverted moon... was yet another sign of not just their world but heaven turned upside down” for these slaves forced across the equator, and the occurrence of the Night of Power, an Islamic holy day, as fomenting the rebellion by evoking prophetic proclivities. Grandin’s insightful, poetic explorations offer profound insight into a critical moment in the modern development of the struggle between freedom and enslavement.
The Empire of Necessity
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Americas
  • Published: Jan 14, 2014
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
  • Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
  • Print Length: 250 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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