By Billy G. Smith
Yale University Press, $35.00, 320 pages
In April 1972, 266 people sailed from England in order to colonize a section of Africa. Their plan was to work with native Africans, demonstrating to the world that slavery is an unnecessary evil. The expedition was doomed from the beginning, when the Captain left England without an official charter, and when it was soon discovered that some passengers had brought young children infected with smallpox. To make matters worse, the African locals were not as eager to enter into commerce with the colonists. Finally, ignoring evidence of disease, they subsequently become the cause of a global pandemic of yellow fever and smallpox, killing tens of thousands around the world.
This is, obviously, a serious work of scholarship, which is the culmination of many years of careful research The story of this poorly planned expedition, rife with disappointment and descriptions of the intertwined lives of people around the globe, has the potential to thrill both the historian and the non-specialist. In this work, however, Smith sacrifices the thrill of the story in favor of academic rigor. For this reason, this excellent work of history will interest anyone with a professional interest in American, European, African, or Maritime History, but may not be of interest to the non-specialist.
Reviewed by Robert C. Robinson