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The Last Slave Market: Dr John Kirk and the Struggle to End the East African Slave Trade

Alastair Hazell

7 Reviews

Rated 0

Prose: non-fiction, African history, 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000

The extraordinary story of John Kirk, the Scottish botanist who single-handedly ended the East African slave trade.

John Kirk was the only companion of explorer David Livingstone to emerge untainted from the disastrous, tragic expedition up the Zambezi river between 1859 and 1863. Three years later, Kirk returned to Africa, to the notorious island of Zanzibar, ancient post of the slave trade between Africa and the Middle East.

Half a century after the abolition of slavery in Britain, slave traffi cking persisted on Africa's east coast, apparently tolerated and even connived with by parts of the British Empire in the Indian Ocean. Kirk, appointed as medical officer to the British Consulate in Zanzibar, could do nothing.

This extraordinary and controversial book brings Kirk's years in Zanzibar to life. The horrors of the overland passage from the interior, and the Zanzibar slave market itself, are vividly described, together with Kirk's final, bitter conflict with Livingstone, who blamed Kirk for his own failings. But it was Kirk's success in closing down the slave trade on the island which made him famous across the world. Using private diaries and papers, a long forgotten Victorian hero and an extraordinary chapter in British history are revived in detail.

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Praise for The Last Slave Market: Dr John Kirk and the Struggle to End the East African Slave Trade

  • This is a humdinger of a tale. You might have thought that journeys into the heart of the Dark Continent with David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley and the likes of Richard Burton had already inspired so vast and breathless a literature that there were few surprises left to report. But that's the miracle of this story. Alastair Hazell's genius has been to plough through the huge and well-documented archive, follow his nose, and tell a tale from an entirely new perspective: the life of Dr John Kirk, an early companion to Dr Livingstone, and afterwards a humble Scottish medical officer and Acting British Consul in Zanzibar. In doing so he turns several accounts on their heads, rectifies a seriously skewed picture, rescues a reputation - and on every page enthralls his readers. - The Spectator

  • Alastair Hazell is not afraid to tell a good story . . . [this is] the extraordinary story of how a medical functionary opposed to slavery became the effective ruler of the last of the world's great slave-trading nations. - TLS

  • There is much to enjoy and reflect upon in this carefully researched and briskly told account. - The Economist

  • Overdue. - Sunday Herald

  • A fascinating forgotten tale. - Metro

  • Despite abolition, the slave trade ?ourished on Zanzibar in the late 19th century, until a Scot, John Kirk, stamped it out. The place's exotic, murky history is well evoked. - The Sunday Telegraph

  • [a] grim but spellbinding account....Hazell tells his story with just the right mix of pace and detail, to keep you hooked. - Independent on Sunday

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