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Sweet Water and Bitter

New or Used: $24.99
In 1807, at the height of the Napoleonic war, ships of nearly all the European nations crowded the malarial wharves of West Africa where merchants traded at the great slaveholding pens and packed their human property into ships’ holds bound for the sugar mills of Cuba and Haiti, and the tobacco plantations of Virginia.

In that same year Great Britain passed the Abolition Act, and the last English slave ship left the African coast with her cargo, shortly to be replaced by the ships and men of the Royal Navy’s Preventive Squadron. For the next fifty years this small fleet patrolled 3,000 miles of treacherous coastline in a determined, unilateral, and only quasi-legal effort to interdict vessels with their human cargoes.

The squadron lost more than 17,000 men to disease, conflict, and varied misfortunes, but they liberated more than 150,000 African slaves, and slowly—through negotiation, intimidation, and military and diplomatic triumphs and setbacks—they helped put an end to the rich, shameful, “peculiar institution” of European and American trade in West African slaves. Through firsthand accounts of naval adventures, ship-to-ship actions, bold raids into the interior, and daily life at sea, Siân Rees brilliantly colours this huge canvas in a series of vivid portraits of the men and officers of the Preventive Squadron. Sweet Water and Bitter is a moving chronicle of suffering, exploitation, and one nation’s determination to suppress slavery.
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The vivid, action-packed and moving story of the Royal Naval squadron that patrolled the West African coast to stop the slave ships, after Britain passed the Abolition Act.

About the Author

Sian Rees was born and brought up in Cornwall. She read Modern History at Oxford, has travelled widely and now lives in Brighton with her two small sons. Her previous books include the bestselling The Floating Brothel, The Shadows of Elisa Lynch and The Ship Thieves.


"Rees's story is certainly gripping - slavers used all sorts of ruses to evade capture, from running up a different flag (only certain countries had legal agreements with Britain) to simply throwing slaves overboard (early on, slave ships could be impounded only if the 'cargo' were actually on board)" -- Andrew Holgate * Sunday Times * "Sian Rees combines thorough research and strong storytelling in Sweet Water and Bitter" * Pride Magazine * "A packed history of bounty-hunting and piracy, of high principle and low skulduggery, of roiling surf and disease-infested swamps and of the seemingly endless African coast" -- Kate Colquhoun * Daily Telegraph * "A compelling and moving tale" * The Times * "A fluent and lively account" * Guardian *

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