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Modern Voices
Barry Unsworth on desperation of European slave traders
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Q: Was there a sense of desperation that the European traders were experiencing?
Barry Unsworth

A: The Europeans were fighting. They were running a race, because Europeans died like flies in that climate -- the average expectation was three or four years. And so they had to make money while they could, because they knew they didn't have much time. So in that sense, of course, they were trapped. And a lot of them had financed the enterprise by borrowing. Without making money, there was nothing to go back to. There was nowhere for them to go. And they caught in that situation. They were victims.

Obviously the slave trade is iniquitous. It was a disgraceful, depraved trade. But for many of those within it. And this includes also the seamen on the slave ships. When you look at their lives, look at where they were coming from, you can see that they were caught in the web of the system and held there, and died there. Just deaths among the crews were much higher than the deaths among the slaves.
Barry Unsworth
"The Sacred Hunger"

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