After finishing "The Book of Negroes" I wanted to learn more about the African Slave Trade. It is part of our history, one of the many such grisly episodes, if you are English, and as such I feel that it is my duty not to forget, as so many others have done. I suppose it helps that I have an interest in history anyway. It's not that I have no knowledge of the slave trade, it is just that what I do know has been gleaned from TV series such as "Roots", "Queenie" and "Someone Knows My Name", films like "Amistad" and "Belle" and novels like Philippa Gregory's "A Respectable Trade". Add to that vague recollections of history lessons over a quarter of a century ago and it is hard to know what is fact, what is fiction and what has been glossed-over because it is just too uncomfortable to be publicised. I hope that this book and others like it will go some way to sorting out the jumble of information stored somewhere in my head.
I finished the first chapter this morning after picking the book up to 'just have a quick look'. It covers the history of Africa before the Slavers arrived. It is a very brief description of cultural sophistication, mainly in the area of architecture, comparable to, and indeed often surpassing, that of contemporary Europe. It would have been interesting to know a little about the life of the inhabitants of these African cities, rather than read generalizations but I suppose that is a whole different book to look for. While I was reading this I was thinking 'I didn't know that' but on reflection I suppose I did, it is just that the knowledge has been smothered by the impression I have of those times, which is and I am really ashamed to say this, of a primitive people living in the Stone Age. So, although I am only 36 pages in, this book has already made me aware of how ignorant I really am. And that is a good thing, I think.