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March 7, 2021
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If We Must Die: Shipboard Insurrections in the Era of the Atlantic Slave Trade (Antislavery, Abolition, and the Atlantic World)

If We Must Die by Eric Robert Taylor examines nearly five hundred shipboard rebellions that occurred over the course of the entire slave trade, directly challenging the prevailing thesis that such resistance was infrequent or insignificant. As Eric Robert Taylor shows, though most revolts were crushed quickly, others raged on for hours, days, or weeks, and, occasionally, the Africans captured the vessel and returned themselves to freedom. In recounting these rebellions, Taylor suggests that certain factors like geographic location, the involvement of women and children, and the timing of a shipboard revolt, determined the difference between success and failure. Taylor also explores issues like aid from other ships, punishment of slave rebels, and treatment of sailors captured by the Africans. If We Must Die expands the historical view of slave resistance, revealing a continuum of rebellions that spanned the Atlantic as well as the centuries. These uprisings, Taylor argues, ultimately helped limit and end the traffic in enslaved Africans and also served as crucial predecessors to the many revolts that occurred subsequently on plantations throughout the Americas.

Praise for If We Must Die

If We Must Die is a thoroughly researched and thoughtful analysis of the surprisingly frequent phenomenon of shipboard slave rebellion, identifying more such revolts than any other scholar has done before. Taylor provocatively assesses the overwhelming odds against the [captives], such as the desperate rebels must have sized up their situation themselves, and then explains the patterns in the outcomes – however seldom successful – of the carefully organized, violently effective breakouts by these seaborne prisoners.” –Joseph C. Miller, author of Slavery and Slaving in World History

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