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Slavery and the Making of Early American Libraries

Sean D. Moore

Published in print February 2019 | ISBN: 9780198836377
Published online April 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780191873621 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198836377.001.0001
Slavery and the Making of Early American Libraries

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Early American libraries stood at the nexus of two transatlantic branches of commerce—the book trade and the slave trade. Slavery and the Making of Early American Libraries bridges the study of these trades by demonstrating how Americans’ profits from slavery were reinvested in imported British books and providing evidence that the colonial book market was shaped, in part, by the demand of slave owners for metropolitan cultural capital. It makes these claims on the basis of recent scholarship on how participation in London cultural life was very expensive in the eighteenth century, and evidence that enslavers were therefore some of the few early Americans who could afford importing British cultural products. In doing so, this work merges the fields of the history of the book, Atlantic studies, and the study of race, arguing that the empire-wide circulation of British books was underwritten by the labor of the African diaspora. This book, accordingly, is the first in early American and eighteenth-century British studies to fuse our growing understanding of the material culture of the transatlantic text with our awareness of slavery as an economic and philanthropic basis for the production and consumption of knowledge. In studying the American dissemination of works of British literature and political thought, this book claims that Americans were seeking out the forms of citizenship, constitutional traditions, and rights that were the signature of that British identity. Even though they were purchasing the sovereignty of Anglo-Americans at the expense of African-Americans through these books, however, some colonials were also making the case for the abolition of slavery.

Keywords: book trade; history of the book; transatlantic; slavery; eighteenth century; British political thought; American Revolution; postcolonial; early American history; colonial book

Book.  288 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Slavery and the Making of Early American Libraries

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Buying <i>Oroonoko</i> in Salem in Slavery and the Making of Early American Libraries

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“Whatever Is, Is Right” in Slavery and the Making of Early American Libraries

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They Were Prodigals and Enslavers in Slavery and the Making of Early American Libraries

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Slaves as Securitized Assets in Slavery and the Making of Early American Libraries

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“See Benezet’s Account of Africa Throughout” in Slavery and the Making of Early American Libraries

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Conclusion Philanthropy Recommended in Slavery and the Making of Early American Libraries

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