Cloth $50.00 ISBN: 9780226078069 Published November 2013
E-book $7.00 to $40.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226078236 Published November 2013

Mastering the Niger

James MacQueen's African Geography and the Struggle over Atlantic Slavery

David Lambert

David Lambert

320 pages | 28 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2013
Cloth $50.00 ISBN: 9780226078069 Published November 2013
E-book $7.00 to $40.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226078236 Published November 2013
In Mastering the Niger, David Lambert recalls Scotsman James MacQueen (1778–1870) and his publication of A New Map of Africa in 1841 to show that Atlantic slavery—as a practice of subjugation, a source of wealth, and a focus of political struggle—was entangled with the production, circulation, and reception of geographical knowledge. The British empire banned the slave trade in 1807 and abolished slavery itself in 1833, creating a need for a new British imperial economy. Without ever setting foot on the continent, MacQueen took on the task of solving the “Niger problem,” that is, to successfully map the course of the river and its tributaries, and thus breathe life into his scheme for the exploration, colonization, and commercial exploitation of West Africa.
           
Lambert illustrates how MacQueen’s geographical research began, four decades before the publication of the New Map, when he was managing a sugar estate on the West Indian colony of Grenada. There MacQueen encountered slaves with firsthand knowledge of West Africa, whose accounts would form the basis of his geographical claims. Lambert examines the inspirations and foundations for MacQueen’s geographical theory as well as its reception, arguing that Atlantic slavery and ideas for alternatives to it helped produce geographical knowledge, while geographical discourse informed the struggle over slavery.
G. J. Martin, Southern Connecticut State University | Choice
“A very interesting study of discovering the Niger. Recommended.”
Trevor Burnard, University of Melbourne
“James MacQueen never went to Africa but he solved one of the great mysteries of nineteenth-century geography—proving that the mighty Niger River terminated in the Atlantic rather than in the east—through ingenious study of diverse materials and through close interrogation of enslaved people under his control on a Grenadian plantation. David Lambert’s rich and rewarding study of MacQueen and the Atlantic slave system he supported tell us new and important things about how geographical knowledge was produced. The great age of African exploration and Atlantic slavery were inextricably linked, as Lambert shows with admirable skill and energy.”

Robert Mayhew, University of Bristol
“What Mastering the Niger achieves is hugely impressive as a contribution to the history of geographical thought, the history of slavery and abolitionism, and Atlantic history.”
James Delbourgo, Rutgers University
“If you want to know what the new history of knowledge looks like, read Mastering the Niger. Ranging from Glasgow to Grenada, David Lambert adapts the sociology of scientific knowledge to examine how the Gradgrind of African geography, James MacQueen, made maps, statistics, tables, and lists count as brute facts in favor of colonization. He reconstructs the role of enslaved knowledges in British geographies of the Niger, while showing how debates over the Niger and colonial policy were always about the contentious authority of fluid and rival forms of geography itself. This crucial connective work draws theoretical knowledge and commercial practice together into a new history of expertise, showing how the techniques of enlightened rationality often served the interests of empire.”

Christopher L. Brown, Columbia University
“With Mastering the Niger, David Lambert uncovers profound and unexpected connections between proslavery politics in the British Caribbean and abolitionist interest in West African geography. In Lambert’s skillful treatment, James MacQueen comes to embody the contradictions of the era. A nearly unprecedented integration of the histories of slavery, empire, geography, colonization, and the history of science—each looks a bit different after this landmark work.”

Contents
List of Figures
 
Chapter 1   Mastering the Niger
 
Part 1: Sources
Chapter 2   “Mr. Park’s Book” and the Niger Problem
Chapter 3   Keeping Account of Atlantic Commerce
Chapter 4   Captive Knowledge
 
Part 2: Courses
Chapter 5   Credibility and Truth Making in the Atlantic World
Chapter 6   Surveying Sierra Leone
Chapter 7   Thomas Fowell Buxton and the Niger Expedition
 
Part 3: Termination
Chapter 8   Beyond the Niger
 
Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
Notes
Bibliography
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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