First edition cover
|Cover artist||from Brookes slave ship plan|
|27 February 1992|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|LC Class||PR6071.N8 S3 1992b|
|Followed by||The Quality of Mercy|
Sacred Hunger is a historical novel by Barry Unsworth first published in 1992. It shared the Booker Prize that year with Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient .
Barry Unsworth FRSL was an English writer known for his historical fiction. He published 17 novels, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times, winning once for the 1992 novel Sacred Hunger.
Philip Michael Ondaatje,, is a Sri Lanka-born Canadian poet, fiction writer, essayist, novelist, editor and filmmaker. He is the recipient of multiple literary awards such as the Governor General's Award, the Giller Prize, the Booker Prize, and the Prix Médicis étranger. Ondaatje is also an Officer of the Order of Canada, recognizing him as one of Canada's most renowned living authors.
The English Patient is a 1992 novel by Michael Ondaatje. The book follows four dissimilar people brought together at an Italian villa during the Italian Campaign of World War II. The four main characters are: an unrecognisably burned man — the eponymous patient, presumed to be English; his Canadian Army nurse, a Sikh British Army sapper, and a Canadian thief. The story occurs during the North African Campaign and centres on the incremental revelations of the patient's actions prior to his injuries, and the emotional effects of these revelations on the other characters. The book won the 1992 Booker Prize, the 2018 Golden Man Booker, and the Governor General's Award.
The story is set in the mid 18th century and centres on the Liverpool Merchant, a slave ship employed in the triangular trade, a central trade route in the Atlantic slave trade. The two main characters are cousins Erasmus Kemp, son of a wealthy merchant from Lancashire and Matthew Paris, a physician and scientist who goes on the voyage. The novel's central theme is greed, with the subject of slavery being a primary medium for exploring the issue. The story line has a very extensive cast of characters, some featuring in only one scene, others continually developed throughout the story, but most described in intricate detail. The narrative interweaves elements of appalling cruelty and horror with extended comedic interludes, and employs frequent period expressions.
Slave ships were large cargo ships specially converted for the purpose of transporting slaves. Such ships were also known as "Guineamen" because their trade involved trafficking to and from the Guinea coast in West Africa.
Triangular trade or triangle trade is a historical term indicating trade among three ports or regions. Triangular trade usually evolves when a region has export commodities that are not required in the region from which its major imports come. Triangular trade thus provides a method for rectifying trade imbalances between the above regions.
The Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularly used the triangular trade route and its Middle Passage, and existed from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The vast majority of those who were enslaved and transported in the transatlantic slave trade were people from central and western Africa, who had been sold by other West Africans to Western European slave traders, who brought them to the Americas. The South Atlantic and Caribbean economies especially were dependent on the supply of secure labour for the production of commodity crops, making goods and clothing to sell in Europe. This was crucial to those western European countries which, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, were vying with each other to create overseas empires.
A sequel, The Quality of Mercy , was published in 2011; it was Unsworth's last book.
The novel begins in England during the Age of Enlightenment but long before the days of Darwin and the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. The novel is broken into two books, beginning in 1752 and 1753 and ending in 1765, with a decade or so separating the two. Matthew Paris is a central character in the novel, a physician several years older than his cousin Erasmus. Prior to the beginning of the story Paris had been imprisoned for writings on the age of the earth that clashed with a literal interpretation of the Bible, his wife Ruth dying while he was incarcerated. Wishing to escape his past, he accepts a position as surgeon on the Liverpool Merchant, a slave ship built and owned by his uncle William Kemp. The elder Kemp's son, Erasmus Kemp, a young man in his early twenties, has a long-standing hatred for his cousin dating back to his younger years. He participates in a play initially, and is enamored with seventeen-year-old Sarah Wolpert, the daughter of a friend of his father. The ship's crew is made up of men available at the time around the Liverpool docks, and many are recruited by blackmail and deception. As the ship sets off toward the African continent to collect its cargo, it becomes clear that Paris and the ship's captain, Saul Thurso, have very different world views.
The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy".
Charles Robert Darwin, was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding.
The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 abolished slavery throughout the British Empire. This Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom expanded the jurisdiction of the Slave Trade Act 1807 which made the purchase or ownership of slaves illegal within the British Empire, with the exception of "the Territories in the Possession of the East India Company", Ceylon, and Saint Helena. Yet slaves in the colony of Jamaica were not emancipated until 1838. The Act was repealed in 1997 as a part of wider rationalisation of English statute law; however, later anti-slavery legislation remains in force.
The book's chapters switch between episodic relations of events on the "Liverpool Merchant," the senior Kemp's slave ship, and domestic developments in Liverpool. On the ship, Paris finds himself travelling down the coast of West Africa among a crew of men who despise being on the ship but have few other options. Some form friendships with him, while others are more inhospitable. While the crew are treated harshly under the ruthless discipline of Captain Thurso, Paris enjoys a different level of treatment; as the nephew of the ship's owner, he is mocked and belittled but treated as an elite member of the crew. Tensions between these two men arise early and build throughout the voyage. As they reach the coast of Guinea, Paris learns that the slaves are recruited by the local Kru people, who 'hunt' for slaves further inland. Slaves are bartered for trade goods of little value such as slave beads and kettles, with the captain haggling with the local traders. Questions are raised regarding the deliberate exchange of faulty weapons with native slave traders.
In trade, barter is a system of exchange where participants in a transaction directly exchange goods or services for other goods or services without using a medium of exchange, such as money. Economists distinguish barter from gift economies in many ways; barter, for example, features immediate reciprocal exchange, not delayed in time. Barter usually takes place on a bilateral basis, but may be multilateral. In most developed countries, barter usually only exists parallel to monetary systems to a very limited extent. Market actors use barter as a replacement for money as the method of exchange in times of monetary crisis, such as when currency becomes unstable or simply unavailable for conducting commerce.
Back in England Erasmus is falling in love with a local girl named Sarah Wolpert. He participates in The Enchanted Island on her suggestion, a rewritten play with characters and dialogue drawn from Shakespeare's The Tempest . The two start a relationship, but Erasmus is very possessive, and conflicts ensue. Meanwhile, Kemp's father, a cotton broker, is in financial trouble, relying heavily on strong profits from the voyage of the Merchant.
William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, probably written in 1610–1611, and thought to be one of the last plays that Shakespeare wrote alone. After the first scene, which takes place on a ship at sea during a tempest, the rest of the story is set on a remote island, where the sorcerer Prospero, a complex and contradictory character, lives with his daughter Miranda, and his two servants — Caliban, a savage monster figure, and Ariel, an airy spirit. The play contains music and songs that evoke the spirit of enchantment on the island. It explores many themes including magic, betrayal, revenge, and family. In act four, a wedding masque serves as a play-within-the play, and contributes spectacle, allegory, and elevated language. Though The Tempest is listed in the First Folio as the first of Shakespeare’s comedies, it deals with both tragic and comic themes, and modern criticism has created a category of romance for this and others of Shakespeare’s late plays. The Tempest has been subjected to varied interpretations—from those that see it as a fable of art and creation, with Prospero representing Shakespeare, and Prospero’s renunciation of magic signaling Shakespeare's farewell to the stage, to interpretations that consider it an allegory of Europeans colonizing foreign lands.
As slaves come aboard, Paris becomes increasingly concerned with their living conditions and general treatment. He is joined on the ship by Delblanc, an artist and philosopher who shares a similar stature with him on the ship, and with whom he exchanges views on subjects such as authority. The voyage is unlike anything he expected, the slaves taking on a defiant stance. They attempt to take their own lives, with the crew trying to prevent them from doing so. With disease and death already frequent on board the ship, dysentery then strikes. The writings in Paris' journal and his exchanges with those on board show his growing disgust with the slave trade, and he comes to question his motives for coming on the voyage and his role in assisting the slave traders.
I have assisted in the suffering inflicted on these innocent people and in doing so joined the ranks of those that degrade the unoffending... We have taken everything from them and only for the sake of profit—that sacred hunger... which justifies everything, sanctifies all purposes.
Meanwhile, William Kemp commits suicide owing to fear of his imminent bankruptcy. Erasmus, now planning to marry Sarah, is offered a job by her father, a wealthy business man. Too proud to accept his pity, he turns away from the Wolpert family, aiming to rebuild his father's empire.
The situation on board the Merchant continues to deteriorate. Thurso cuts the ship's rations, trying to keep as many slaves alive as possible. Death continues, the corpses tossed overboard. Thurso throws a monkey overboard, a pet brought on board by one of the seamen. The crew begin to rebel against him, and he becomes paranoid, keeping to his own quarters. Finally, Thurso decides to throw the remaining slaves overboard, the insurance money being more attractive than their prospects for sale in a sickened state. As he attempts to have them tossed into the ocean, chains and all, the shipmates revolt. As the first part of the book ends, the fate of the Liverpool Merchant remains unclear.
Roughly a decade on, the second part of the book initially focuses on the fate of Erasmus. Having recovered from bankruptcy and the shame of his father's death, he has married into a wealthy family. His wife Margaret is the daughter of a wealthy man, Sir Hugo, President of the West India Association. Their marriage is clearly one of mere convenience. It seems sure that the Liverpool Merchant has been lost at sea in bad weather. However, Kemp soon learns from another captain that the ship is beached on the southeastern coast of Florida in the Americas. The ship's crew and slaves are said to be living together in a small inland settlement, trading with the local Indians. Seeking retribution against his cousin, Kemp takes a ship to Florida. In St. Augustine he manages to obtain a small force of infantry equipped with cannon to capture the crew.
The ship's crew and slaves have been living together in a community for over a decade, speaking a trade pidgin from the Guinea coast. The few women are shared among the men, many of which now have children. Paris has a son with a woman named Tabakali, who he shares with another man. The small community live in a primitive fashion, having a simple anarchist–socialist political system. Life is peaceful in general though, even utopian. The translator tells the children stories in a pidgin tongue which they all share, while Paris reads to them from Alexander Pope and David Hume.
Erasmus finds Paris' journal among the wreckage of the Merchant, his cousin's writings clashing with his strongly capitalist convictions, and further whetting his appetite for retribution. Erasmus' hatred for his cousin stems from his childhood, when Matthew had forcefully lifted him away when he was trying to dam a river. With his party of fifty, he finds the settlement. Some are shot, the rest being taken to St. Augustine by ship. He intends to sell the slaves as his father's property, and have the crew hanged for murdering Thurso. He particularly looks forward to the hanging of his cousin Paris, whose leg wound appears minor. But the trauma of the gunshot has triggered "some occlusion of the blood," a pulmonary embolism that Paris recognises as fatal. Paris dies before the ship can reach St. Augustine, and Erasmus comes to the realisation that Paris did not lift him clear of the dam to cheat him of victory, but to save him from defeat.
John Newton was an English Anglican clergyman and abolitionist who served as a sailor in the Royal Navy for a period, and later as the captain of slave ships. He became ordained as an evangelical Anglican cleric, served Olney, Buckinghamshire, for two decades, and also wrote hymns, known for "Amazing Grace" and "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken".
Admiral Sir John Hawkins was an English slave trader, naval commander and administrator, merchant, navigator, shipbuilder and privateer. His elder brother and trading partner was William. He was considered the first English trader to profit from the Triangle Trade, based on selling supplies to colonies ill-supplied by their home countries, and their demand for African slaves in the Spanish colonies of Santo Domingo and Venezuela in the late 16th century. He styled himself "Captain General" as the General of both his own flotilla of ships and those of the English Royal Navy and to distinguish himself from those Admirals that served only in the administrative sense and were not military in nature. His death and that of his second cousin and mentoree, Sir Francis Drake, heralded the decline of the Royal Navy for decades before its recovery and eventual dominance again helped by the propaganda of the Navy's glory days under his leadership.
The Middle Passage was the stage of the triangular trade in which millions of Africans were forcibly transported to the New World as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Ships departed Europe for African markets with manufactured goods, which were traded for purchased or kidnapped Africans, who were transported across the Atlantic as slaves; the slaves were then sold or traded for raw materials, which would be transported back to Europe to complete the voyage. The First Passage was the transportation of captives (slaves) to the African ports, such as Elmina, where they would be loaded onto ships. The Final Passage was the journey from the port of disembarkation, such as Charleston, to the plantation or other destination where they would be put to work. The Middle Passage across the Atlantic joined these two. Voyages on the Middle Passage were large financial undertakings, generally organized by companies or groups of investors rather than individuals.
A High Wind in Jamaica is a 1929 novel by the Welsh writer Richard Hughes, which was made into a film of the same name in 1965. The book was initially titled The Innocent Voyage and published by Harper & Brothers in the spring of that year. Several months later Hughes renamed his novel in time for its British publication, and Harper followed suit. The original title retained some currency, as evidenced by Paul Osborn's 1943 stage adaptation. There have since been two radio adaptations, with the title A High Wind in Jamaica.
The Zong massacre was the mass killing of more than 130 African slaves by the crew of the British slave ship Zong on and in the days following 29 November 1781. The Gregson slave-trading syndicate, based in Liverpool, owned the ship and sailed her in the Atlantic slave trade. As was common business practice, they had taken out insurance on the lives of the slaves as cargo. When the ship ran low on drinking water following navigational mistakes, the crew threw slaves overboard into the sea to drown, in part to ensure the survival of the rest of the ship's passengers, and in part to cash in on the insurance on the slaves, thus not losing money on the slaves who would have died from the lack of water.
Ship of Magic is a 1998 fantasy novel by American writer Robin Hobb, the first in her Liveship Traders Trilogy.
Georges is a novel by Alexandre Dumas, père set on Isle de France (Mauritius), from 1810 to 1824. This novel is of particular interest to scholars because Dumas reused many of the ideas and plot devices later in The Count of Monte Cristo, and because race and racism are at the center of this novel, and this was a topic on which Dumas, despite his part-African ancestry, rarely wrote. Georges was first published in 1843. It has been republished in English as George; or, the Planter of the Isle of France.
Flash for Freedom! is a 1971 novel by George MacDonald Fraser. It is the third of the Flashman novels.
James Penny was a merchant, slave ship owner and prominent anti-abolitionist in Liverpool, England. He defended the slave trade to the British Parliament.
Solomon Townsend was a merchant ship's captain prior to the American Revolution, owned an ironworks in New York State, and was a representative to the New York State Legislature. Stranded in London following the outbreak of hostilities, Townsend's passage back to America was facilitated by Benjamin Franklin. After the war he was a successful owner of an iron works plant, and a member of the New York State Legislature. One of his children followed him into the legislature and another was a founder of what became the New York Academy of Sciences.
Will was a ship launched at Liverpool in 1797 for Aspinal & Co., who were one of Liverpool's leading slave-trading companies. She made numerous voyages between West Africa and the Caribbean carrying slaves, during which she several times successfully repelled attacks by French privateers. Will apparently foundered in a squall in July 1806, shortly before the passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807 abolished the slave trade for British subjects.
Tarleton was built in France under another name in 1778. The partnership of the Tarletons and Backhouse purchased her in 1779. She first traded between Liverpool and Jamaica, and then became a slaver. She was lost in November 1788.
Princess Royal was a large, frigate-built ship launched at Liverpool in 1783. She made four voyages as a slave trader before she grounded in 1789 and was condemned.
Othello was launched in 1786 at Liverpool for the African slave trade. She made some five voyages before she burnt off the coast of Africa in 1796. During her first voyage her master fired on another British slave ship, which gave rise to an interesting court case. As a letter of marque she recaptured a British ship in 1794.
Michael Becher was a Bristol-born English slave trader and merchant. Becher was from an established Bristol commercial family, and he took over his father's slave trading firm
Elliott was launched at Liverpool in 1783. She made ten voyages as a slave ship, carrying slaves from West Africa to the West Indies. Next, she made one voyage as a whaler. She then became a merchantman, sailing between England and South America. In November 1807 French privateers captured her.
Eliza was launched in America in 1780 and taken in prize in 1782. She entered the Liverpool registry in 1783, 1786, and again in 1792. She made nine voyages as a slave ship, and was lost in an explosion on her tenth voyage after she had already embarked her slaves. In all, including her disastrous last voyage, she had embarked 3769 slaves and landed 3013, for a loss rate of 18.7%.
Mary was launched at Liverpool in 1806. She made one voyage as a slave ship during which voyage she engaged in a notable blue on blue action with two British warships. After the British slave trade ended, she traded with Haiti and Brazil, and possibly made one voyage to India under license from the British East India Company (EIC). She then became a whaler and was lost in 1825 in the Pacific on the second of two whaling voyages.
Washington Black is the third novel by Canadian author Esi Edugyan. The novel was published in 2018 by HarperCollins in Canada and by Knopf Publishers internationally. A bildungsroman, the story follows the early life of George Washington "Wash" Black, chronicling his escape from slavery and his subsequent adventures. The novel won the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.