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Captives and Countrymen

, 272 pages

2 halftones

August 2010



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Captives and Countrymen

Barbary Slavery and the American Public, 1785–1816

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the Barbary States captured and held for ransom nearly five hundred American sailors. The attacks on Americans abroad—and the government’s apparent inability to control the situation—deeply scarred the public. Captives and Countrymen examines the effect of these acts on early national culture and on the new republic's conception of itself and its position in the world.

Lawrence A. Peskin uses newspaper and other contemporaneous accounts—including recently unearthed letters from some of the captive Americans—to show how information about the North African piracy traveled throughout the early republic. His dramatic account reveals early concepts of national identity, party politics, and the use of military power, including the lingering impact of the Barbary Wars on the national consciousness, the effects of white slavery in North Africa on the American abolitionist movement, and the debate over founding a national navy.

This first systematic study of how the United States responded to "Barbary Captivity" shows how public reaction to international events shaped America domestically and its evolving place in the world during the early nineteenth century.

Lawrence A. Peskin is an associate professor of history at Morgan State University. He is the author of Manufacturing Revolution: The Intellectual Origins of Early American Industry, also published by Johns Hopkins.

"Peskin's splendid book gives the reader a new way to look at the Barbary piracy."

"Peskin's work should be welcomed as providing an important piece to the larger unfolding story of Western interaction with the Arab world."

"After September 11 2001, many books have explored the clash between the United States and the Barbary States in the years bridging the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, seeking the traces of early national engagement in the Muslim world... [Peskin] finally moves beyond these publications, bringing both new sources and new ideas into play... The debate over the Barbary Wars was pivotal in American contemporary politics and public opinion."

" Captives and Countrymen is an important contribution to our understanding of the public sphere, nationalism, and imperiialism in the early republic."

"Peskin provides an important contribution to the understanding of the development of American nationalism."

"A well-researched, closely argued book from which both general readers and specialists alike will benefit."

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