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Crowns of Glory, Tears of Blood


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About the Author

A native of Brazil, Emilia Viotti da Costa is Professor of History at Yale University, and the author of The Brazilian Empire: Myths and Histories.


Da Costa re-creates the historical moment of one of the most massive slave rebellions in the history of the Americas--the uprising of 9000 to 12,000 blacks in August 1823 in Demerara, the British colony in northeastern South America, later known as Guyana. With precise, penetrating analysis, the Brazilian-born Yale historian and winner of a MacArthur fellowship exposes and examines the antecedents of the three-day carnage and the subsequent highly controversial trials of captured rebels. Relying on local and world perspectives drawn from abundant archival records and broad reading in the recent scholarship on slavery, antislavery reform, and religion, da Costa offers a sensitive and skillfull portrait that captures the rules and rituals of repression and recalcitrance in a slave society in the Americas on the eve of abolition. Highly recommended for collections on slavery, antislavery, blacks, and the British Caribbean.-- Thomas J. Davis, SUNY-Buffalo

With thorough, judicious research, Yale history professor da Costa reconstructs ``one of the greatest slave uprisings . . . of the New World,'' which occurred in the British colony of Demerara, now known as Guyana, in 1823. She records the debates in Britain and its outposts over rights and reforms, showing how planters and missionaries differed and how the colony's slaves grew resentful of the pace of change. Missionary John Smith, drawn to Demerara by serendipity, became a convert to the slaves' causes and was blamed for the rebellion; he was sentenced to death, but died in jail. Da Costa suggests, rather, that some 12,000 slaves, stimulated by rumors of freedom and by harassment, linked to one another by family and work loyalties, started the uprising on their own, seizing their plantations. Though only three whites died during the rebellion, hundreds of slaves were killed or wounded and 33 were executed after summary trial. The conflict ultimately influenced the British decision a decade later to abolish slavery in its colonies. Illustrations not seen by PW . (May)

In Crowns of Glory, Tears of Blood Emilia Viotti da Costa tells the story of the Demerara slave rebellion of 1823, and she tells it very well. Her narrative, vividly written, utilizes multiple sources to tell the story from different points of view. Her book comes out of a tradition of writing inspired both by marxist and nationalist historiographies and has none of the trappings of a postcolonial text. The older questions of historical determination, of causality and of agency meet the new agendas of cultural history in a deeply satisfying narrative. * History Workshop Journal *

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