Seamus Dunphy


About Author: 

Seamus is an Editor who joined NewsBank in 2006 and continues to be an integral member of the Readex Digital Collections team. He currently leads a team indexing the Territorial Papers, curates derivative products, and writes blogs and training material. He received his B.A. from Marlboro College and remains a student of political science and economics. His hobbies include writing, gardening, and traveling.

Posts by this Author

“Mohammed the Languid”: Tales of Zanzibar and Other Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The May release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes:

  • a history of discovery and navigation, with a focus on the Mediterranean and North Africa
  • a narrative of the search for the Nile’s source
  • and translations of Swahili myths and legends.

Historical Sketch of the Progress of Discovery, Navigation, and Commerce, from the Earliest Records to the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century (1824)

By William Stevenson

William Stevenson was a tutor, preacher, farmer, public servant, and historian. His history of discovery is a tour de force covering “the earliest traces of navigation and commerce” from the time of Herodotus, 450 B.C.E, to the point at which “the grand outline of the terraqueous part of the globe may be said to have been traced…”

A larger proportion of the volume is devoted to the progress of discovery and enterprise among the ancients…especially that which comprehends the commerce of the Phoeniceans, of the Egyptians under the Ptolemies, of the Greeks, and of the Romans is illustrated with more ample and minute details, than the period which has elapsed since the new world was discovered. To most readers, the nations of antiquity are known by their wars alone; we wished to exhibit them in their commercial character and relations.

Stevenson’s enthusiastic approach to such a broad topic and his contagious thirst for knowledge brings his work alive. His opening paragraph simultaneously challenges and entices his readers:

“Mohammed the Languid”: Tales of Zanzibar and Other Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

“Every country has its myths”: Selections from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The May release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a pair of perspectives on the customs of peoples of West Africa, works by Jules Verne on African travel, replete with richly detailed illustrations, and much more.


Trade and Travels in the Gulph of Guinea, Western Africa, with an Account of the Manners, Habits, Customs, and Religion of the Inhabitants (1851)

By John Smith

John Smith was a 19th-century surgeon and trading captain “to one of the first mercantile houses in England.” Smith made several voyages to West Africa where he came into “contact with a great number of the inhabitants” and “witnessed some extraordinary scenes.”

Though well-traveled, Smith’s own cultural assumptions are prominent in his account. In explaining his focus on a single West African country, Smith writes, “the inhabitants of one nation…will really include a description of many others, inasmuch as those different barbarous countries on the West Coast very nearly resemble each other in their customs, morals, and manners.”

Smith continued:

The author regrets the occasion of some coarse expressions and allusions to be found in this work; but, as the people he gives an account of are in so debased a state as to render the conveying anything like a correct notion of them otherwise, impossible, he deems any farther apology unnecessary.

Smith’s cultural bias, in this case specifically his religious belief, is also displayed in the introduction to a chapter on myths:

“Every country has its myths”: Selections from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“You Whine in All the Moods and Tenses”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The May release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a reply to a Confederate sympathizer’s claims of victimization, a lecture on the effects of the Civil War on national productivity, and a compilation of biographical sketches of Lincoln’s Cabinet officers, now often described as his “team of rivals.”

“You Whine in All the Moods and Tenses”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

“The Zeal of the Bigot”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

The May release of the American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes rare items discussing the charge of religious fanaticism within the abolition movement and an economic approach to ending slavery by a future advisor to President Lincoln.


Immediate Abolition Vindicated (1838)

By Elderkin Jedediah Boardman, A.B., Pastor of the First Church in Randolph, Vt.  

Rev. Elderkin J. Boardman was born in Bethel, Vermont, on June 1, 1791. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1815 and later became a student of theology, graduating from the Andover Theological Seminary in 1820. Boardman was one of the first outspoken abolitionists in Vermont.

Addressing the Randolph Female Anti-Slavery Society on June 26, 1838, Boardman refuted the charge of religious fanaticism levied against abolitionists as merely a pretense to oppose a policy of immediate abolition:

Religion is now the same that it ever has been. Human nature is the same. And in the same circumstances, we always expect to see the same results. Whenever religion is arrayed against the leading sins and corruptions of the age, it is called fanaticism by the wicked, and its advocates, the disturbers of the peace, the injurious to society. We see an instance of this in our own times, and country; in which religion is directed against the abominations of slavery under the form of abolition societies.

Later, Boardman argued for the righteousness of the abolitionist movement, saying:

“The Zeal of the Bigot”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

“The Disagreeable Practice of Shaving”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The April release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a history of the French and Indian War, a narrative of a global circumnavigation, and the diary of 19-year-old George Washington while traveling to Barbados.


The History of the Late War in North-America, and the Islands of the West-Indies, Including the Campaigns of MDCCLXIII and MDCCLXIV against His Majesty's Indian Enemies (1772)

By Thomas Mante

Thomas Mante was a historian and officer in the English army. He was also a spy for the French government. Mante was recruited by Jean-Charles-Adolphe Grant de Blairfindy in 1769 and became involved in British intelligence in the 1770s. He operated as a double agent until 1774 when the British, then aware of his disloyalty, ceased to pay him. His history of the French and Indian War is nearly as dramatic as was his life. Recounting the 1759 naval bombardment of French-held Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, Monte wrote:

“The Disagreeable Practice of Shaving”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

International Travels, Escapes and Adventures: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

Decembrist Revolt, a painting by Vasily TimmThe April release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes several autobiographical tales of danger and adventure. In these highlighted works, the authors describe foreign travels—to St. Petersburg in time to witness the Decembrist Revolt, to the Indian Ocean aboard a whaling vessel, and to war-torn Crimea on a mission of mercy.


A Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince (1853)

By Nancy Prince

Although born free in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Nancy Prince’s life was not without struggle. Her father died when she was an infant, and her mother soon remarried. Sadly, her stepfather also died during Nancy’s childhood which led to her mother’s emotional breakdown and left the family on the brink of poverty. She and her siblings picked and sold berries to support themselves and their mother before Nancy found work as a servant.

In 1824, Nancy married Nero Prince, a Mason Grand Master, and her life changed dramatically. They traveled to Russia where her husband worked as a footman at the court of the czar in St. Petersburg. About her audience with Czar Alexander, Nancy Prince wrote:

International Travels, Escapes and Adventures: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“In Xandu did Cublai Can”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

April’s release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes several fascinating 17th-century works from the Age of Discovery. This period of European global exploration led to the Columbian Exchange in which commodities, cultures, and communicable diseases were widely transferred between Eastern and Western hemispheres. In one of these books is the passage describing Xanadu that inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge—after waking from a drug-fueled dream—to compose one of his best-known poems.


The Golden Trade: A Discovery of the River Gambra, and the Golden Trade of the Aethiopians (1623)

By Richard Jobson




In 1620 English explorer Richard Jobson commanded an expedition to explore the Gambia River. Although he and his fellow adventurers failed to find the gold they sought, Jobson returned to England with a wealth of information about the region. Included in this book, the first European work to mention the board game Mancala, is a first-hand description of the legendary African trader Buckor Sano and this explanation of a previousoly unencountered method of trade:

“In Xandu did Cublai Can”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

“A Plain, Honest, Unostentatious Man”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The April release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a defense of the leadership style of General John Fremont, a Pennsylvania Republican's critique of a Pennsylvania Democrat's secessionist pamphlet, and a history of illegal arrests and political imprisonments during the conflict.


General Fremont, and the Injustice Done Him by Politicians and Envious Military Men (1862)

By William Brotherhead

In 1861, while serving as Commander of the Western Armies, John Charles Fremont issued a proclamation putting Missouri under martial law and ordering the emancipation of slaves belonging to rebels. Fremont had gained a reputation for unilateral decision-making and later that year President Lincoln relieved him of his command for insubordination. 

Fremont remains controversial. He is criticized as impetuous and overly ambitious by some and lauded as a military hero and political leader by others. Believing the latter, William Brotherhead in this work compares Fremont to the leadership of both the Union and Confederacy:

“A Plain, Honest, Unostentatious Man”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

“Behold him now the Pharaoh”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The April release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes the response by the American consul in Cuba to calls for his dismissal, a Southerner’s perspective on the destruction of a South Carolina city, and a Northern senator’s call to remove the American president from office.


Reply of N.P. Trist, Consul at Havana, to the Preamble and Resolutions, Adopted by the Meeting of Ship Masters and Ship Owners... and Transmitted to the President of the United States, as the Ground of Their Demand for the Instant Recall of Said Consul (1840)
By Nicholas Philip Trist

In the 1830s Nicholas Trist was appointed U.S. consul in Havana, Cuba, by President Andrew Jackson. Openly in favor of slavery, Trist became the subject of a British commission investigating violations of the treaty ending African slave trade. Trist was also suspected of corruption by New England ship captains who felt he was inadequately defending their interests in order to maintain good relations with Cuban officials, and by abolitionists who charging him with illegally profiting from false documents used to disguise the sale of Africans into slavery.

Trist answered the claims with righteous outrage and offense. Responding to allegations of having illegally earned fees for falsifying documents and for corruption in general, Trist countered:

“Behold him now the Pharaoh”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“Bullets, Bayonets, and the Loud-Mouthed Cannon”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

The April release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes an Englishman’s perspective on the slave trade, opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law from both sides of the Atlantic, and a speech before the House of Representatives urging the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.


Records of a Voyage to the Western Coast of Africa (1833)
By Peter Leonard

In 1830, His Majesty’s frigate the Dryad set sail as part of a British “naval force employed on the African station for the suppression of the slave trade.” Peter Leonard, the author of this work, served as the ship’s surgeon and upon his return to England in 1832 wrote about his experiences. He aimed “to make known the horrors which attend the Slave Trade…[and] to expose some of the defects of the laws and treaties, having for their object the suppression of the disgraceful traffic in human beings…”

Leonard reported:

…that the aboriginal inhabitants of Africa continue to be forcibly dragged from their homes; and…sold as any other commodity might be, and lorded over by their miscalled Christian brethren of creation, because, forsooth, their physical and moral perception has not been furbished by the chicanery and cunning of artificial society, and because, in them, the “human face divine” happens to be of a darker shade, and their facial angle less accordant with our ideas of symmetry and fair proportion.

“Bullets, Bayonets, and the Loud-Mouthed Cannon”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

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