Sweet Water and Bitter: The Ships That Stopped the Slave Trade
Sian Rees

Sweet Water and Bitter: The Ships That Stopped the Slave Trade

It is well known that Britain and America formally abolished the transatlantic slave trade in 1807 – less so that the illegal slave trade flourished for another six decades. Abolition was unpopular in Africa, Europe and America , and other nations were not obliged, or willing, to obey the laws of the arrogant British. A Royal Naval ‘Preventive Squadron’ was therefore sent to patrol the West African coast and enforce abolition. This is the story of the Squadron’s arduous 60-year campaign, during which it liberated 160,000 Africans and lost 17,000 of its own men.

Book Details:

  • Author: Sian Rees
  • On Submission
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Chatto
    • US: University of New England Press

Sian Rees

Siân Rees was born and brought up in Cornwall, spending much of her childhood in boatyards and at sea. She read Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford and then spent a decade travelling and living abroad. Her first book, The Floating Brothel: the extraordinary true story of the Lady Julian and its cargo of female convicts bound for Botany Bay was written after living in Melbourne, Australia, and published in 2001. It was followed by The Shadows of Elisa Lynch: how a nineteenth-century Irish courtesan became the most powerful woman in Paraguay (2003) after a stint in South America,...
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Book Reviews

  • "  To dramatic effect, Rees uses first-hand sources to portray the complicated reality of Atlantic slavery .. she is to be congratulated on telling the story so vividly’"
    Ian Thomson, Times Literary Supplement
  • "  History has not been kind to the British, and current trends are keener to blame them for ever having had anything to do with (the slave trade) than to credit them for working against it. This lively and interesting book, taking an alternative view, will no doubt be denounced or ignored in academic courses all over the semi-educated world. That, by the way, is a recommendation’    "
    Philip Hensher, The Spectator
  • "engrossing and persuasive story... a compelling and very well-written narrative."
    BBC History Magazine
  • "The book is a joy to read: well written and fast-paced...Rees succeeds admirably in bringing to life the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade."
    History Today
  • "A packed history of bounty-hunting and piracy, of high principle and low skulduggery."
    The Daily Telegraph
  • "Rees presents a well-researched account of Britain's attempt to stem the Atlantic   slave trade by creating the Preventive Squadron to enforce the 1807 Abolition   Act. . . . Her use of case histories and personal narratives make this an especially   engrossing read…. presents a little-known but historically significant chapter in nautical   and slavery history, an important addition to 19th-century studies. Recommended   to students and informed lay readers in British history and African geography. "
    Library Journal
  • "The British anti-slavery campaign that began in 1807 and continued for the next fifty years has been relegated to a footnote... Rees' book largely succeeds in readdressing this oversight. . . . At the centre of the book are the letters, diaries, reminiscences and accounts of those employed on anti-slavery operations. These are all brought to life in flowing prose,illuminating the voices and experience of those employed in the service. Deftly using a range of sources, Rees paints an emotive picture of the hardships of serving in tropical waters."
    International Journal of Maritime History