Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Kevin P. McDonald's "Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves"

Kevin P. McDonald is Assistant Professor of Colonial America and Atlantic World History at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves: Colonial America and the Indo-Atlantic World, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Chapter 5
Seafaring Slaves and Freedom in the Indo-Atlantic World

Sometime in 1694, a “very tall” and “remarkable” mulatto named Calico Jack, a seafaring slave, slipped away from his owner’s plantation on the Upper Mills at Philipsburg Manor. Jack initiated his escape on the Pocantico, a tributary of the Hudson River just north of New York City, and traveled eastward along the Long Island Sound. Jack’s owner, Frederick Philipse, tracked him to Stratford, Connecticut, a small port town on the northern coast of the Sound, where the trail disappeared. Philipse was convinced that Jack had continued navigating to Rhode Island, where he would have utilized his considerable maritime knowledge and language skills—he was said to speak English as well as Dutch. According to his master and corroborated by the fragmentary record, Jack found his way to Newport and enlisted as a privateer on one of four ships, possibly Captain Tew’s, that were fitting out to pillage the Red Sea region. Years after Jack’s escape, Philipse, the wealthiest merchant in New York, was so intent on recapturing this slave that he ordered two of his captains and trading factors to “make a strict inquiry after him” at Madagascar and, if found, to “take him up.” Philipse instructed his captains that if they were unable to apprehend the slave, he would “stand to whatever agreement you make with him, of which you may assure him.”

This account of a runaway slave, brief yet rich in detail, reveals a number of surprising facets of a global trade network as remarkable and audacious as Calico Jack himself...
I am pleased to proclaim that page 99 in Pirates is one of my favorite passages in the book. It is the first page of chapter five, "Seafaring Slaves and Freedom in the Indo-Atlantic World." Slaves rarely left documents behind, so one of the most significant challenges in studying slaves and slavery is trying to uncover their hidden lives. The book, which examines an illicit informal trade network connecting the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds, argues that pirates played a significant yet misunderstood role in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and that slaves were not just commodities but integral components of maritime trade networks.
Learn more about Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue