AFRICAN KINGS AND BLACK SLAVES, sovereignty and dispossession in the early modern Atlantic

: Bennett (H.)

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226pp., paperback, Philadelphia, 2019


Herman Bennett on the first century of sustained African-European interaction.

"At the core of Bennett's book is the argument that the fierce competition between Portugal and Spain over the African Atlantic, which was significantly mediated by the Church, was crucial to the creation of the modern nation-state and of what became modern European nationalism. Early national identities in Europe were forged, to a substantial extent, on the basis of competition over trade and influence in Africa. And this, Bennett says, gets completely lost in Western histories that fast-forward from the conquest of the Canary Islands to Columbus's arrival in the Americas." New York Review of Books

"African Kings and Black Slaves centers the histories of peoples of African descent in the grand tale of imperial conquest and power and thereby challenges the dominant narrative that colonial slavery has timelessly been about freedom. Herman Bennett is especially sensitive to the multisited nature of the contests set in motion by colonial encounters." Antoinette Burton, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"Herman L. Bennett's indispensable study alerts us to the political and intellectual consequences of flattening the history of Europe's relations with Africa by overlooking the Iberian experience. He ably shows how recuperating the notion of African sovereignty, abundantly recognized in early exchanges, can fundamentally change our understanding of African polities and African subjects."  Barbara Fuchs, University of California, Los Angeles

Herman L. Bennett is Professor of History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is author of Colonial Blackness: A history of Afro-Mexico and Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity and Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570-1640.