Christopher Michael Blakley, "Empire of Brutality: Enslaved People and Animals in the British Atlantic World" (Louisiana State UP, 2023)

08 Apr 2024 • 58 min • EN
58 min
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Historians of early America, slavery, early African American history, the history of science, and environmental history have interrogated the complex ways in which enslaved people were thought about and treated as human but also dehumanized to be understood as private property or chattel. The comparison of enslaved people to animals, particularly dogs, cattle, or horses, was a common device deployed by enslavers. The letters, memoirs, and philosophical treatises of the enslaved and formerly enslaved reveal the complex ways in which enslaved people analyzed and fought these comparisons. Dr. Chris Blakely focuses on human-animal relationships to unpack “how, where, and when did such decisions regarding the chattel nature of human captives take place?”  In Empire of Brutality: Enslaved People and Animals in the British Atlantic World (LSU Press, 2023), they argue that slaving and slavery relied on and generated complex human-animal networks and relations. Exploring these groupings leads to a deeper understanding of how enslavers worked out the process of turning people into chattel and laid the foundations of slavery by mingling enslaved people with nonhuman animals. Efforts to remake people into property akin to animals involved exchange and trade, scientific fieldwork that exploited curiosity, and forms of labor. Using the correspondence of the Royal African Company, specimen catalogs and scientific papers of the Royal Society, plantation inventories and manuals, and diaries kept by slaveholders, Dr. Blakley describes human-animal networks spanning from Britain's slave castles and outposts throughout western Africa to plantations in the Caribbean and the American Southeast. They combine approaches from environmental history, history of science, and philosophy to examine slavery from the ground up and from the perspectives of the enslaved. Dr. Chris Blakley is a visiting assistant professor in the Core Program at Occidental College and a historian interested in more-than-human relationships with a focus on racialization and empire-building. Empire of Brutality: Enslaved People and Animals in the British Atlantic World is their first book and they are just beginning a second project on science, race, and the senses in the nineteenth century.  Daniela Lavergne served as the editorial assistant for this podcast. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

From "New Books in African American Studies"

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