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Mastering the NigerJames MacQueen's African Geography and the Struggle over Atlantic Slavery$
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David Lambert

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226078069

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226078236.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 26 September 2021

Credibility and Truth Making in the Atlantic World

Credibility and Truth Making in the Atlantic World

(p.121) Chapter Five Credibility and Truth Making in the Atlantic World
Mastering the Niger

David Lambert

University of Chicago Press

This chapter considers tensions between James MacQueen’s synthetic geographical method and theories of knowledge based on first-hand observation. Questions about the credibility of testimony and authority at distance were not limited to the fields of geographical discovery and exploration, but also extended to the moral and political issue of slavery. The chapter begins with reviews of MacQueen’s first geographical work on Africa, A Geographical and Commercial View (1821), particularly the dismissal of MacQueen’s Niger theory by John Barrow, the central figure in coordinating and promoting British exploratory activity in Africa. The chapter then discusses the reception of MacQueen’s claims about another Atlantic site, the Caribbean, in the context of campaigning around slavery. This time, MacQueen contrasted his own first-hand knowledge with the distant speculations of abolitionists such as Zachary Macaulay. MacQueen sought to manage this apparent contradiction by articulating a particular epistemological map of the Atlantic world and a certain construction of racialised categories. Finally, a discussion of MacQueen’s attacks on the slave narrative The History of Mary Prince (1831) and its antislavery sponsor, Thomas Pringle, is used to reveal that this contradiction could never be completely managed, something with consequences for his claims about distant places across the Atlantic world.

Keywords:   John Barrow, Zachary Macaulay, The History of Mary Prince, Mary Prince, Thomas Pringle, Slave narrative, Testimony, Credibility

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