29 January 2018

BOOK: Richard J.M. BLACKETT, The Captive’s Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the Politics of Slavery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). £ 94.99. ISBN 9781108418713

Cambridge University Press has recently published a book dealing with i.a. slave law in the decade before the American Civil War. The eBook can already be obtained through Cambridge University Press, the paperback and hardback are due to be published in March 2018.


This magisterial study, ten years in the making by one of the field's most distinguished historians, will be the first to explore the impact fugitive slaves had on the politics of the critical decade leading up to the Civil War. Through the close reading of diverse sources ranging from government documents to personal accounts, Richard J. M. Blackett traces the decisions of slaves to escape, the actions of those who assisted them, the many ways black communities responded to the capture of fugitive slaves, and how local laws either buttressed or undermined enforcement of the federal law. Every effort to enforce the law in northern communities produced levels of subversion that generated national debate so much so that, on the eve of secession, many in the South, looking back on the decade, could argue that the law had been effectively subverted by those individuals and states who assisted fleeing slaves.


Part I. The Slave Power Asserts Its Rights:
1. The fugitive slave law
2. The law does its work
3. Compromise and colonize
Part II. Freedom's Fires Burn:
4. Missouri and Illinois
5. Western Kentucky and Indiana
6. Eastern Kentucky and Ohio
7. Southeast Pennsylvania
8. Eastern shore of Maryland and Philadelphia
9. New York
10. Massachusetts

More information on the website of Cambridge University Press 

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