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Reconstructing the Life Histories of Liberated Africans: Sierra Leone in the Early Nineteenth Century

  • Suzanne Schwarz

This article draws attention to the scope and significance of the Registers of Liberated Africans, which were recently retraced in the Public Archives of Sierra Leone after a period of neglect. These registers, spanning the period between 1808 and 1819, provide details of the names and physical characteristics of the first groups of “recaptives” released at Freetown by royal naval patrols in the immediate aftermath of British abolition of the slave trade. This evidence, when combined with other categories of records generated by colonial administrators, offers a rare opportunity to reconstruct biographical information about enslaved Africans after their release from slaving vessels. The methodology discussed in this article demonstrates how nominal linkage across diverse categories of records surviving in Sierra Leone and Britain makes it possible to trace aspects of the subsequent movements of individuals after their cases had been adjudicated by the Vice Admiralty Court at Freetown.

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History in Africa
  • ISSN: 0361-5413
  • EISSN: 1558-2744
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