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People down on their luck fleeing to the colonies on the first available ship is a mainstay of 19th century fiction. It was a convenient way for an author to either get rid of an unnecessary character, or to bring a surprise new person into the narrative mix with dramatic effect.
Slavery defined the Atlantic world. African forced labour produced the primary materials that drove European mercantile economies. The plantation complex lay at the core of societies from Brazil and the West Indies to the American mainland and West Africa.
For every large historical topic – and the transatlantic slave trade is certainly a large one – there is a need for good small books to introduce the academic understanding of the topic to students and the general public. The writing of a good small book on a large topic, however, can be no small challenge.
This book is a study of the exercise of imperial power in the early modern era and the way authorities at all levels moved, expelled, and transported people within the British Empire. Morgan and Rushton investigate some of the processes by which a wide variety of peoples under many different circumstances were forcibly moved.
Sarah Pearsall has found her sea legs in her analysis of Atlantic families who were launched alone and adrift ‘into the ocean of the world’ (p. 47). Family members in Britain, the Caribbean, and the American colonies were divided by the Atlantic in a period of revolution and war (1760–1815).