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Imprint: Oneworld Publications

Subject: History

The Empire of Necessity

The Untold History of a Slave Rebellion in the Age of Liberty

Greg Grandin



One morning in 1805, off a remote island in the South Pacific, seal hunter and abolitionist Captain Amasa Delano climbed aboard the Tryal, a distressed Spanish slaver. He spent all day on the ship, sharing food and water, yet failed to see that the slaves, having slaughtered most of the crew, were now their own masters. Later, when Delano realized the deception, he chased the ship down, responding with barbaric violence. Greg Grandin follows this group of courageous slaves and their persecutor from the horrors of the Middle Passage to their explosive confrontation.

A page-turning and profoundly moving account of obsessive mania, imperial exploitation, and lost ideals, The Empire of Necessity captures the epic clash of peoples, economies, and faiths that was shaping the so-called New World and the Age of Revolution.

  • Publication date: May 7, 2015
  • ISBN: 9781780746456
  • RRP: £9.99
  • Pages: 384



The Good Book Guide

‘Accessible… electrifying’


‘Remarkable… superbly argued and richly detailed… Grandin brings to vivid life the realities of the period’ 


'Superb...An exemplary work of history - even-handed, meticulous, and adroit in balancing action and ideas.'

Financial Times

'For nearly four centuries, as Greg Grandin writes in his powerful new book, slavery was the “flywheel” that drove the global development of everything from trade and insurance to technology, religion and medicine... Through a remarkable feat of research he establishes a strong narrative line... Harrrowing.'

New York Times Book Review

'The Empire of Necessity is scholarship at its best. Greg Grandin’s deft penetration into the marrow of the slave industry is compelling, brilliant, and necessary.'

Toni Morrison

'A wonderfully engaging and original combination of action and reflection, vivid detail and deep insight. It is a shocking story of slavery and brutality, but with an ambition that every historian should have – to truly understand a world.'

Matthew Parker, author of the Sugar Barons

'Richly informed... [Grandin] describes his unsettling panorama in a restrained manner, avoiding exaggeration and allowing facts -- many of them horrific -- to tell the story. In doing so, he has produced a quietly powerful account.' 

Wall Street Journal

'Grandin has written a gripping, lavishly researched account of high seas drama, as well as the trials of the slaves before and after their revolt. Equally fascinating is the thesis Grandin advances: that in 1804 human political liberty and abject bondage were both rising apace – often advanced by the very same people... Compulsively readable.'

Christian Science Monitor

'Greg Grandin has done it again. Starting with a single dramatic encounter in the South Pacific he has shown us an entire world: of multiple continents, terrible bondage and the dream of freedom. This is also a story of how one episode changed the lives of a sea captain and a great writer from the other end of the earth. An extraordinary tale, beautifully told.'

Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost

'In this multifaceted masterpiece, Greg Grandin excavates the relentlessly fascinating history of a slave revolt to mine the enduring dilemmas of politics and identity in a New World where the Age of Freedom was also the Age of Slavery. This is that rare book in which the drama of the action and the drama of ideas are equally measured, a work of history and of literary reflection that is as urgent as it is timely.'

Philip Gourevitch, co-author of the The Ballad of Abu Ghraib

'[Grandin] writes with the skills of a fine novelist. With herculean archival research, he traces the backstory of each of the main participants... the owner of the slaves, the Spanish captain, the Yankee captain, and those slaves whose paths to the fateful revolt can be tracked or at least surmised. Then Grandin extends their stories beyond the revolt to the ends of their lives. Each life story leads through the explosive contradictions of the Age of Revolution...Inventive, audacious, passionate.’

Los Angeles Review of Books

Greg Grandin

Greg Grandin is author of Fordlandia, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A Professor of History at New York University, he has written for the New Statesman, New York Times, and others, and has been a Guggenheim Fellow. He lives in New York.

Author page

More books by Greg Grandin

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