This book examines the events surrounding the establishment of a settlement in West Africa in 1787, which was later to become Freetown, the present-day capital of Sierra Leone. It outlines the range of ideas and attitudes to Africa which underlay the foundation of the settlement, and the part played by the settlers themselves, London's 'Black Poor'. Information about London's black population at this time comes to light through an investigation of sources such as parish registers. The relevance of the expedition to race relations in Britain is considered. Was the settlement based on a racist deportation designed to keep Britain white (as some accounts claim), or a voluntary emigration in which the blacks themselves played a part? Once in West Africa, the settlers faced a struggle to survive against often harsh conditions, a struggle which included conflict with slave traders and neighbouring Africans. The settlement's 'failure' is perhaps less surprising than its subsequent re-establishment. The last part of the book looks at the nature of the Sierra Leone Company through the debate over its formation. Was it primarily a commercial concern with colonial pretensions, or an idealistic venture closely connected with the campaign to abolish the slave trade? Finally, it is suggested that the Company's aims helped to mould British policy towards Black Africa during the first half of the nineteenth century.
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