The British Empire Library

Zanzibar: Slavery and the Royal Navy

by Kevin Patience

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Sally Healy (Africa Research Group, FCO)
This booklet is the fourth in a series of private publications by Kevin Patience, reflecting his interest in Zanzibar and aspects of its history in the late 19th and early 20th century. His earlier booklets, The Shortest War in History, The Bububu Railway and The Loss of HMS Pegasus, has been reviewed by Brian Eccles.

Kevin Patience's approach to his subject is clearly inspired by both his long association with East Africa and his professional work as a salvage diver. Through this he has developed a real fascination for a very particular period of British naval history in this part of the world. The book touches on the Royal Navy's role in three different areas: the suppression of the slave trade, the bombardment of the Sultan's palace in 1896 and the punitive expeditions mounted on the East African coast in the early years of colonialism. It is richly illustrated by a superb collection of contemporary photographs, attributed to Mr A Gomez "Zanzibar's premier photographer" and only recently unearthed in the Zanzibar archives.

This is not a heavy duty history. Any one of the book's three sub topics might be the subject of lengthy tomes. Nor does it adopt a high moral tone. Mr Patience deals just as dispassionately with the Royal Navy's laudable role in the suppression of the slave trade as he does with its rather more dubious role in punitive expeditions on the East African coast. The most perplexing action of all - the extraordinary decision (the orders were "Act as you deem best") to bombard the Sultan's palace as a means of establishing the successor favoured by the British - is carefully described. But the reader is left none the wiser about what it was about "the usurper" Seyyid Khalid bin Bargash that the Acting Consul-General found so objectionable. Nevertheless, the combination of Mr Patience's easy writing style and the marvellous photos makes Zanzibar - Slavery and the Royal Navy an attractive and enjoyable read.

British Empire Book
Kevin Patience
Dar Akhbar A1 Khaleej Press and Publishing House
1 85821 907 8


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