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Letters on West Africa and the Slave Trade. Paul Erdmann Isertís Journey to Guinea and the Carribean Islands in Columbis (178

Selena Axelrod Winsnes

Publication Year: 2007

Paul E. Isert, a Dane, arrived in Ghana (then the Gold Coast) in 1783, taking advantage of an opening in the slave trade between Guinea and the West Indies. He was appointed as chief surgeon to the Danish establishments on the Guinea Coast. In 1786 he sailed to the West Indies with a cargo of slaves, who revolted. His experiences in Ghana and the West Indies resolved him to end the trans-Atlantic slave abuse. This book is written in the form of letters to his father. An elusive character, it is clear that he nonetheless had an unreservedly positive attitude towards Africa and its indigenous peoples, and an equally negative attitude towards the Europeans on the Guinea coast. An admirer of Rousseau?s philosophy, he was concerned about the corrupting influence of the European ?civilisation? on the ?Blacks?. His writing attempts at objectivity, seeking to find the common humanity. He claims that the ?Black? was, at least equal to that of the ?European?,which was not shared by his Danish predecessors. This is the first English language edition of his original Danish letters, previously published in German, Dutch, French, and Swedish.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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List of illustrations and maps

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pp. 9

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pp. 10-11

This book is a much revised and expanded version of an M. Philos. thesis written at the Centre of West African Studies, Birmingham, 1984 to 1986. I am indebted to Tom McCaskie who supervised the research, to Lynne Brydon who piloted me through the ethnological...

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Editor's Introduction

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pp. 12-28

When Isert first arrived at the Gold Coast in 1783 the Baltic Guinea Company, chartered in 1781, was taking full advantage of an opening in the slave trade, both in Guinea and the West Indies. The American War of Independence had drained off some of the...

Journey to Guinea and the Caribbean Islands in Columbia (1788)

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pp. 29

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pp. 31-32

One must not expect an extensive topographical, cosmological, geographical and historical discourse about the countries reported upon here. Such reports can be found in an encyclopædia or some other appropriate, thick volume, which treats them adequately in...

Table of Contents

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pp. 33-34

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First Letter: Guinea 10 November, 1783

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pp. 35-46

You know, dear friend, that on 2 July this year I boarded a company ship called ‘Prinz Friedrichs Hofnung’ as a passenger, to make the journey from Copenhagen to the Danish possessions here. With this our goal we weighed anchor the following morning. Near...

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Second Letter: Guinea 29 December 1783

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pp. 47-62

I had barely sent off my last letter to you when I received orders from the present Governor-in-Chief of this country, Mr Kiøge, who was staying at Ada on the Rio Volta, to join him and his army of Blacks. They had been gathered in camp there for...

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Third Letter: Guinea 8 April 1784

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pp. 63-81

In my last letter you received a description of the supply of military equipment of the Black, of the actual declaration of the war, of the reasons for the war, and other matters. Now I shall give you a more precise report on the actual outbreak of the war...

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Fourth Letter: Guinea 18 May 1784

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pp. 82-95

On 10 April the newly combined army marched out again and made camp at a very important town named Pottebra, at a distance of three miles east of Quitta. During the march we encountered three separate towns, Little Ajuga, Great Ajuga and...

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Fifth Letter: Guinea 25 June 1784

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pp. 96-106

‘Dated from yet another new fort?’ you may say ‘How is that possible?’ A fortress, after all is not a mushroom, which appears one day and disappears the next!’ Be that as it may, we have at present four of the most fortified towns in Africa, and we have begun to be...

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Sixth Letter: Guinea 24 September 1784

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pp. 107-119

On 26 June this year we joyfully made our return march with the allied Akra and Akuapim and Lagoon Blacks, and found ourselves at the mouth of the Rio Volta the next morning. Since our arrival was known in advance boats were already at hand to carry...

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Seventh Letter: Guinea 28 March 1785

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pp. 120-150

With that intention I actually sailed from Christiansburg on the brigantine Ada, on 11 October last year. For this voyage, we loaded some wares which were designated for the establishment on the Lower Coast, or as we call it here, the Lower Stations, primarily...

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Eighth Letter: Guinea 16 October 1785

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pp. 151-194

In my last letter from Fida I sent you a description of the journey from Prinzenstein to Fida, and, in the same letter, I entertained you with considerable detail about the Europeans as well as about the natives of these places. Now let me tell you about the habits...

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Ninth Letter: Guinea 20 April 1786

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pp. 195-211

All of the Europeans who are staying in Guinea, regardless of what nation they come from, are in the service of either their king or a company. It was the Portuguese who first sailed along the Guinea Coast, in the mid-fifteenth century. Finding the people on...

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Tenth Letter: Guinea 10 August 1786

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pp. 212-231

By that time I had been in this land for nearly three years and I had been only a few miles inland. A high range of mountains was always visible to me, mountains which could not have been more than five miles away. Completely covered with large trees, they...

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Eleventh Letter: St. Criox 12 March 1787

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pp. 232-252

It was on 7 October last year that I left Africa and boarded the ship ‘Christiansburg’ which sailed that very evening. Picture the tumult in front of a ship of black slaves, a ship which, when used in the king’s service would hold no more than 200 people, now...

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Twelfth Letter: Martinique 10 July 1787

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pp. 253-275

St. Thomas is the oldest establishment of our nation in this part of the world. It has been occupied by us since 1672. At that time, however, it lay waste, apart from the occasions when some English pirates stayed in various places on the island in order to consume...

Appendix of Meteorological Observations

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pp. 276-280

Editor's Appendices

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pp. 281-329


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pp. 330-341

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pp. 342-344

This book is the outcome of P.E. Isert’s observations, impressions and experiences in the so-called Danish colony in Guinea (West Africa) and the Danish West Indies (now Virgin Islands). It is an interesting compilation of...


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pp. 345-358

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9789988647568
Print-ISBN-13: 9789988647018

Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2007