The ‘Black Mozart’ Was So Much More – Atlas Obscura

The inscription roughly translated reads: ‘Knight of St. George, a pupil of La Bössiere’s father, both in London and in Paris, the reputation of the greatest practitioner of fencing was equally appreciated as a musician.’ PORTRAIT BY MATHER BROWN (C. 1753)/PUBLIC DOMAIN

The 40 years between the American Revolution and the defeat of Napoleon gifted the world some wonderful music. From Haydn’s string quartets, through Mozart’s symphonies, to Beethoven’s dazzling works for piano—a music lover could paddle around the period forever. But one great figure of the age is often ignored: Joseph Bologne, also known by his noble title the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. This is a pity. A person of…

Source: The ‘Black Mozart’ Was So Much More – Atlas Obscura

English Historical Fiction Authors: White Slavery in Britain and Morocco

When people think of ‘white slavery’ they generally think of darker-skinned races scooping up and carrying off white women for sale into harems.

And while this did happen and is part of my book Stolen, it’s also true that the British enslaved their own in an era when cheap labour was desperately needed in the new colonies in the Americas and the Caribbean.

In the first half of the 1600s, when Stolen takes place, Barbary corsairs – pirates from the Barbary Coast of North Africa, sanctioned by their governments to attack the ships of Christian countries – operated all around Britain’s shores.

In addition to attacking ships and sailors, the corsairs also raided coastal settlements in Devon and Cornwall, often by sailing their craft onto…

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Murder!: Entangled History, String Theory, and Narrative

The Junto

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On a dark and stormy night in July of 1729, a vicious murder occurred in the port city of Veracruz. Okay, I don’t actually know if it was stormy on that night, nor was the murder particularly vicious but, for narrative effect, bear with me. On the evening in question, a Dominican priest accompanied by an entourage of the town’s residents walked to the trading factory of the British South Sea Company to pay the factors a visit. According to Inquisition records, as the group approached the factory, shots were fired from within the building, and the Dominican priest fell dead. The man who fired the fatal shots – William Booth[1] – claimed that he had not recognized the priest and fired in self-defense. As Booth argued, marauders frequently roamed the streets after dark and he assumed the visitors wanted to rob him. Booth was sentenced to five years…

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Host City Glasgow: signs of slavery and the imperial past are never far away

Originally posted on Host City Glasgow

The “second city of empire” was how this year’s host of the Commonwealth Games used to be well-known. Glasgow’s imperial past is hinted at by names littered throughout the city centre, in geographic pointers such as Virginia Street and Jamaica Street; and tributes to tobacco barons in the likes of Buchanan Street and Ingram Street.

A quarter of the world’s locomotives and a fifth of its ships were built on the banks of the river Clyde in the second half of the 19th century. These were used primarily to transport goods and people around the empire. The route from Glasgow to America was much shorter than the passage from London. As a result, goods such as tobacco, cotton and sugar were all transported and stored by the Clyde. More tobacco was transported through Glasgow than the rest of the United Kingdom combined. This added to the wealth of so-called “tobacco lords”. Beyond street names, the city is still littered…

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