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I've been reading this thread with great interest. we currently live in Torrington in North Devon. I have been reading extensively about the 'Hidden Atlantic Trade' , as Marcus Rediker and Peter Linebaugh describe it in their excellent The Many-Headed Hydra, I have read several books by Marcus Rediker in particular, but also others. Rediker in particular (of those who I have read) acknowledges the slavery imposed on the Irish.
My family background on my father's side is based in Wexford, my mother's in Co Kilkenny. My late brother and I were raised in Dublin in the early years of our lives before emigration to Dublin. One of our forbears Fr Tomás Clinse, a suspended priest, led the rearguard of pikemen at the Battle of Vinegar Hill on 22 June 1798. My grandfather, John A Clinch taught at Pearse's St Enda's School. I'm fascinated by the thought that he could have known the great socialist James Connolly, who was clearly ploughing a brave furrow in Catholic clergy dominated Ireland!
Thanks for this introduction into an area of Irish history which I have only found out about by hearing snippets and relying on hunches regarding origins of the names and backgrounds of the many students I have taught in South London who came from African-Carribean backgrounds. One thing was evident, ie I felt a strong affinity culturally via language and music for example and also through some customs and ways of life. Of course it is also vital to verify or discount 'hunches' and 'educated guesses' etc, hence this narrative and the evidence which drives it is so important for me and others I hope.
The 'coffin ships' that the late Philip Chevron refers to in the wonderful 'Thousands are Sailing' are relating to the post Great Hunger ships to America. Bobby Sands wrote about earlier 'transportation' in the equally powerful 'Back Home in Derry'. The period of so-called 'indentured labour' is something I have been aware of but did not have an understanding of the evidence. I have bought the book 'White Cargo' to explore further.
I am also clear that white slavery and black slavery should not be counterposed in any way. Both were the vile outcomes of merchants and well heeled landlords, gentry, royalty etc who enriched themselves on the terrible suppression and torture of ordinary human beings. I see the Irish and the African experience as united in its resistance to these disgraceful Christian human traders. Of course their are all sorts of complexities where Irish and Africans exploited their own. A situation necessitated by the growth of capitalism. Nothing new there. It still happens now in different contexts but with exploitation as the driving force eg Tony O'Reilly and his treatment of the Waterford Glass workers several years ago or in South Africa, the once highly admired miners' leader Cyril Ramaphosa is known to have colluded with the employers in the lead up to the massacre at Marikana in 2012.
For me the unity of opposition to those who caused such pain over the 400 year period of Atlantic slavery is that of ordinary people regardless of nationality who organised on ships, in ports to resist the oppression. It is important to look at the evidence of slavery and examine the responses to it from below where slaves from many backgrounds and languages, sometimes alongside sailors, who were often treated almost as badly had rebelled. It is equally important in my view to learn the lessons of unity now when in opposition to the attacks on migrants, for example, in both Eire and the UK. All should be welcome regardless of circumstances instead of being categorised into skilled, unskilled, legal, illegal, economic etc. These attacks, for me, are a significant part of the legacy of slavery.
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