Nicholas Guyatt

Nicholas Guyatt teaches history at Cambridge. Bind Us Apart: A Prehistory of ‘Separate but Equal’ comes out later this year.

Whalers v. Sealers: Rebellion on the Tryal

Nicholas Guyatt, 19 March 2015

In​ 1805 there was a slave rebellion aboard the Tryal, a Spanish ship sailing from Valparaíso to Lima. This wasn’t unusual: hundreds of similar revolts broke out across the shipping lanes of the Atlantic, and nearly all ended in failure. There were rare exceptions: the rebels who seized the Cuban schooner Amistad in 1839 had the good fortune to make landfall in Long Island...

A Topic Best Avoided: Abraham Lincoln

Nicholas Guyatt, 1 December 2011

On the evening of 11 April 1865, Abraham Lincoln spoke to a crowd in Washington about black suffrage. The Civil War had been over for a week. Lincoln had already walked the streets of Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, taking in the devastation at first hand. ‘The only people who showed themselves were negroes,’ the radical senator Charles Sumner noted. The president had...

Blackberry Apocalypse: Evangelical Disarray

Nicholas Guyatt, 15 November 2007

Only a year ago, American evangelical Christians seemed more powerful than they had ever been. They had helped to re-elect George W. Bush in 2004, in spite of a rickety economy and the disastrous invasion of Iraq. They had waged a successful campaign in Washington to restrict access to late-term abortion. They had launched a series of ballot initiatives intended to prevent states or judges legalising gay marriage. And they had encouraged the Bush administration to appoint sympathetic justices to the Supreme Court. (In 2005, they secured their long-standing goal of a conservative majority on the court.) As the mid-term elections approached, worried liberals were warning that an American theocracy was just around the corner.

Our Slaves Are Black: Theories of Slavery

Nicholas Guyatt, 4 October 2007

In 1659, during the last months of the Commonwealth, 72 slaves from Barbados managed to escape to London. They complained to Parliament that they had been living in ‘unsupportable Captivity’, working at the furnaces and sugar mills, and ‘digging in this scorching Island’ with only roots and water to sustain them. They had been ‘bought and sold still from one...

Ever since Samuel Johnson’s icy comment of 1775 – ‘How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?’ – British observers have felt a little sour about the American Revolution. For Tories like Johnson, the colonists were ungrateful wretches who had squandered the precious gift of British liberty. Worse, they had the temerity to...

The current US president likes to talk about his predecessor ‘the first George W.’, but it’s hard to imagine two politicians with more different styles. George Bush invites world leaders to barbeques at his Texas ranch, and gives nicknames to the members of his cabinet. (‘Pablo’ for the hapless Paul O’Neill; ‘Z-Man’ for Robert Zoellick.) George...

The Founding Fathers of the United States were mainly Southerners: between them, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison can take credit for drafting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, winning the Revolutionary War, and preserving America’s independence through its turbulent early decades. The republic was governed by Southern presidents for 40 of its...

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