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Abolition From Below: The 1808 Revolt In The Cape Colony

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Chapter Summary

This chapter argues that to appreciate the rebels' actions, one need to break with the methodological nationalism that underpins South African exceptionalism and draw on the Many Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic, in which Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker transform our understanding of labor and resistance in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The chapter examines the revolt and responses to it using the available evidence, which consists mostly of trial records and government correspondence. The Cape colony was established by the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC), which needed a rest-stop for ships travelling from the Netherlands to South Asia and Indonesia. The abolition of the slave trade and investigation into the illicit trade in slaves contributed to their anxieties. Lord Caledon was constrained by the imperatives of a modern empire and shared many of the War and Colonial Office's concerns.

Keywords: British abolition; cape colony; Lord Caledon; slave trade



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