Sweet Water and Bitter: The ships that stopped the slave trade

Author(s): Sian Rees


When the abolitionist Granville Sharpe bought land in Sierra Leone to 'repatriate' freed slaves, one former slave living in London foresaw trouble. 'Is it possible,' asked Ottobah Cugoano, biblically, 'that a fountain should send forth both sweet water and bitter?'. Could the slave trade be abolished from West Africa when West Africa was its source? The answer was no. "Sweet Water and Bitter" is the extraordinary sequel to Britain's abolition of the slave trade in 1807. The last legal British slave-ship left Africa that year, but other countries and illegal slavers continued to trade. When the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815, British diplomats negotiated anti-slave-trade treaties and a 'Preventive Squadron' was formed to cruise the West African coast. In six decades, this small fleet liberated 150,000 Africans and lost 17,000 of its own men in doing so. This is the tale of their exciting and arduous campaign. It is also a story of unforeseen consequences...What to do with the freed slaves? How to manipulate international law so that you could board the ships of other nations? How to fight the intense hostility of African leaders to abolition?


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The vivid, action-packed and moving story of the Royal Naval squadron that patrolled the West African coast to stop the slave ships, after Britain passed the Abolition Act.

Rees's story is certainly gripping - slavers used all sorts of ruses to evade capture, from running up a different flag (only certain countries had legal agreements with Britain) to simply throwing slaves overboard (early on, slave ships could be impounded only if the 'cargo' were actually on board) Sunday Times Sian Rees combines thorough research and strong storytelling in Sweet Water and Bitter'. Pride Magazine

Sian Rees was born and brought up in Cornwall. She read Modern History at Oxford, has travelled widely and now lives in Brighton with her two small sons. Her previous books include the bestselling The Floating Brothel, The Shadows of Elisa Lynch and The Ship Thieves.

General Fields

  • : 9781845951177
  • : CCV
  • : Vintage
  • : February 2010
  • : United Kingdom
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Sian Rees
  • : Paperback
  • : 326.80941
  • : 352