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David Alston

Feb 16, 2022

Slaves and Highlanders

Silenced Histories of Scotland and the Caribbean

Edinburgh University Press 2021

In Slaves and Highlanders: Silenced Histories of Scotland and the Caribbean (Edinburgh University Press, 2021), Dr. David Alston shows how Scots were involved in every stage of the slave trade: from captaining slaving ships to auctioning captured Africans in the colonies and hunting down those who escaped from bondage. This book focuses on the Scottish Highlanders who engaged in or benefitted from these crimes against humanity in the Caribbean Islands and Guyana, some reluctantly but many with enthusiasm and without remorse. Their voices are clearly heard in the archives, while in the same sources their victims’ stories are silenced – reduced to numbers and listed as property.

Dr. Alston gives voice not only to these Scots, but to enslaved Africans and their descendants – to those who reclaimed their freedom, to free women of colour, to the Black Caribs of St Vincent, to house servants, and to children of mixed race who found themselves in the increasingly racist society of Britain in the mid-1800s. The book pays special attention to the new colonies of the southern Caribbean, including Grenada and Guyana, and to Suriname in the years to 1863.

As Scots recover and grapple with their past, this vital history lays bare the enormous wealth generated in the Highlands by slavery and emancipation compensation schemes. This legacy, entwined with so many of our contemporary institutions, must be reckoned with. This book therefore contributes to the debate on reparation by reappraising the idea of Scots complicity in the slave trade.

This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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Miranda Melcher

Miranda Melcher (Ph.D., Defense Studies, Kings College, London) studies post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with deep analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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