One morning in 1805, off a remote island in the South Pacific, Captain Amasa Delano, a New England seal hunter, climbed aboard a distressed Spanish ship carrying scores of West Africans he thought were slaves. They weren’t. In fact, they were performing an elaborate ruse, having risen up earlier and slaughtered most of the crew and officers. When Delano, an idealistic, anti-slavery republican, finally realized the deception-that the men and women he thought were humble slaves were actually running the ship-he rallied his crew to respond with explosive violence.
Drawing on research on four continents, The Empire of Necessity is the untold history of this extraordinary event and its bloody aftermath. Delano’s blindness that day has already inspired one masterpiece-Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno. Now historian Greg Grandin returns to these dramatic events to paint an indelible portrait of a world in the throes of revolution, providing a new transnational history of slavery in the Americas-and capturing the clash of peoples, economies, and faiths that was the New World in the early 1800s.