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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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Surveying Sierra Leone

Surveying Sierra Leone

(p.148) Chapter Six Surveying Sierra Leone
Mastering the Niger

David Lambert

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 6 focuses on some of the consequences of James MacQueen’s geographical claims in Africa itself, particularly in relation to the colony of Sierra Leone, which was imagined and promoted by its humanitarian supporters as an antithesis to Caribbean slavery, demonstrating the potential of free African labour and thus a sign of what could be achieved if colonial slavery was ended. MacQueen was one of Sierra Leone’s most trenchant critics in the 1820s and the chapter examines how he used geographical arguments to portray the colony as both an unhealthy ‘white man’s grave’ and financially costly, and to call for the abandonment of Sierra Leone and the colonisation of the island of Fernando Po in the Gulf of Guinea. Unsurprisingly, MacQueen’s attacks attracted strident responses from antislavery campaigners. In particular, Kenneth Macaulay, cousin of the prominent abolitionist, Zachary Macaulay, questioned MacQueen’s claims, the credibility of his methods, and tried to paint him as a ‘well-paid mercenary’ for pro-slavery West Indian interests. The chapter also investigates the impact of the issues that MacQueen raised about West African geography, including its medical topography, in terms of plans for and understandings of Sierra Leone and Fernando Po.

Keywords:   Sierra Leone, Fernando Po, Kenneth Macaulay, White man’s grave, Medical topography, Humanitarians

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