Faculty Book: Wendy Warren: A New England History with Slavery Unbound

Dec. 8, 2016


New England Bound: Slavery and Colonialization in Early America
In 1638, 18 years after the Mayflower made shore, a Salem, Mass.-based ship named Desire returned from trading in the West Indies. Writing in his journal, John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, recorded its cargo as cotton, tobacco, and “negroes, etc.”

American slavery usually is equated with the antebellum South’s plantation system, but Winthrop’s casual tone suggests this isn’t the whole story, as Wendy Warren, an assistant professor of history, recounts in her book New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America (Liveright). “There has remained something exceptional in both the popular and the scholarly understanding of early Colonial New England, an exceptional absence,” she writes.

The idea for the book came to Warren when, as a Yale graduate student, she happened upon a 17th-century travelogue containing a brief but agonizing account of the rape of a New England slave, ordered by an owner “desirous to have [more] Negroes.” The Northeastern location, the early date, and the woman’s utter isolation struck Warren. “It didn’t seem to fit what I already knew,” she says. Read more at Princeton Alumni Weekly.