The Empire of Necessity

  • by Greg Grandin
  • Narrated by Luis Moreno
  • 11 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the acclaimed author of Fordlandia, the story of a remarkable slave rebellion that illuminates America' s struggle with slavery and freedom during the Age of Revolution and beyond
One morning in 1805, off a remote island in the South Pacific, Captain Amasa Delano, a New England seal hunter, climbed aboard a distressed Spanish ship carrying scores of West Africans he thought were slaves. They weren' t. Having earlier seized control of the vessel and slaughtered most of the crew, they were staging an elaborate ruse, acting as if they were humble servants. When Delano, an idealistic, anti-slavery republican, finally realized the deception, he responded with explosive violence. Drawing on research on four continents, The Empire of Necessity explores the multiple forces that culminated in this extraordinary event - an event that already inspired Herman Melville' s masterpiece Benito Cereno. Now historian Greg Grandin, with the gripping storytelling that was praised in Fordlandia, uses the dramatic happenings of that day to map a new transnational history of slavery in the Americas, capturing the clash of peoples, economies, and faiths that was the New World in the early 1800s.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

What is the "right thing to do"?

This is one of those books that help me to triangulate the position that I find myself increasingly taking in my clinical work with men.

The tale is, in it's own scholarly way, an account of the man in the gray flannel suit. If suggests that the consequence of the economic transformation of the world through "free trade," was made possible by men who imagined freedom in a particular way. The freedom to rule over others.

The book itself explores the particular problem of a merchant ship captain, one Amasa Delano from Duxbury, MA, who, in 1804, encountered a Spanish ship off the Chilean coast. While initially appearing to be a ship in distress that might be in need of Christian charity, it might also be a potential prize as salvage. In truth, it had been the site of a slave rebellion. The actual resolution of this maritime drama became quite famous, eventually the basis for Herman Mellville's novella, Benito Cereno.

In the post Columbian world of seemingly infinite possibility for the creation of new wealth, the politics of freedom were focused on the removal of "unfair" barriers to the exploitation of whole new continents of resources and peoples. Much of the book's argument about the legal rulings in this morality play pays attention to the historical context of European revolution and the moral confusion about an emerging social order organized by a declaration of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

It is in this way that the book amplifies the conversation about, or awareess of, a moral domain that floats under the surface of us all. Call it what you want, the central feature of it, from the perspective that more and more of us share, is that things aren't fair. In trying to determine "rights," it is instructive to consider "wrongs." In many years of seeing couples and families in distress, much of my work, particularly with determined men, is to help them consider the basic question of "what if the shoe were on the other foot?"
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- Lake

Good book, terrible narrator

Would you listen to The Empire of Necessity again? Why?

No. In fact, since I so disliked the narrator, I couldn't even make it through part one. and , after several trials, gave up. Instead, I ordered the book from Amazon.

What did you like best about this story?

I've long been a fan of Melville's "Benito Cerino," a novella based on this fascinating historical incident. The author recounts the incident in detail, then expands the scope to include a novel view of the slave trade and traces the ultimately intertwining narratives of the story's three main characters.

How could the performance have been better?

Mr. Moreno reads in phrases, not sentences. Though he has a good voice, his delivery is halting and uncertain, resulting in strange (and quickly annoying) word emphasis and phrasing. Frankly, I've listened to hundred of audio books, and he is clearly the worst I've heard.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, though I couldn't truly devote all those hours given the book's length. In truth, I couldn't take more than 20 minutes of the narration at a time.

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- Richard Boling

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-14-2014
  • Publisher: Recorded Books