Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Five best books: anti-revolutionary British loyalists

Maya Jasanoff teaches history at Harvard University and is the author of Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (2011).

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of books on anti-revolutionary British loyalists.

One title on her list:
Epic Journeys of Freedom
by Cassandra Pybus (2006)

Stereotypes suggest that loyalists were rich white men, but their number included 20,000 patriot-owned slaves who responded to British promises of freedom in exchange for joining the redcoats. Cassandra Pybus's illuminating "Epic Journeys of Freedom" describes how, at the end of the war, thousands of these so-called black loyalists left America to chart free lives elsewhere in the empire. The results were discouraging. In the Maritimes of eastern Canada, black refugees suffered "bitter cold and grinding poverty," as well as inescapable racial tensions, and life in London was hardly better. The refugees' struggles prompted British abolitionists to sponsor a free black colony in West Africa—the origins of Freetown, Sierra Leone—for which black loyalists Thomas Peters and David George helped recruit 1,200 settlers from Canada. Less fortunate, though, were the handful of black loyalists whom Pybus, in a brilliant feat of research, traces to Australia's fatal shore: They were convicts on the First Fleet of 1787-88.
Read about another book on Jasanoff's list.

--Marshal Zeringue