A story of a slave ship turned freedom ship off the coast of Africa in the 1800s.

The Black Joke by A. E. Rooks

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for The Black Joke:

If you can’t beat them, steal their ship and then beat them.

Quick synopsis:

A story of a slave ship turned freedom ship off the coast of Africa in the 1800s.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

A quarter of all the freed enslaved people were courtesy of The Black Joke during its time period.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

It used to require an act of Parliament in England to get divorced. Only 325 were granted over 150 years. There is a Henry VIII joke here, but I am not going to bother.

My Take on The Black Joke:

It is always enjoyable to read something in depth about a time period I know little about. The Black Joke by A. E. Rooks is one of those books. In the 1800s, England had done away with the slave trade but needed to back up this prohibition. They created what was called the West African Squadron (WAS) to track slavers and free their people. One of the slavers they caught was rechristened The Black Joke and sent after its fellow slavers. It was remarkably successful for reasons Rooks documents.

It is worth pointing out a few things about the narrative, though. This book is just as much about the WAS as it is The Black Joke. This is not a bad thing, but if you are looking for a straight maritime adventure, you will find this a bit too scholarly. Also, Rooks does not write like a normal scholarly historian. Rooks uses more modern vernacular at times and uses very complex sentences. I personally like simpler sentences and less tangents, but the book is a still a good read, nonetheless.


A good book on a little-known topic. Buy it here!

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