Cover Image: Mutiny on the Rising Sun

Mutiny on the Rising Sun

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A speaking engagement about a related topic led the author to write Mutiny on the Rising Sun. The book recounts the origins, events, and eventual fate of a smuggling schooner's final voyage. It also details information about the crew and cargo, which included African people, chocolate, sugar, and coffee. 
Starting from that horrible night in June 1743, the book narrates a deeply human history of the smuggling of people and goods. The documentary illuminates an international chocolate smuggling ring and how/why smuggling impacted the lives of everyone involved with the business of the schooner. The author touches on larger forces of the time, too, including racial capitalism, social capital, and a "society driven by a collective sadism and sociopathy that placed productivity above all else." 
In places, this book reads like a textbook. But its content and depth of information made me think. Slavery has been part of the African and American continents for centuries. It stems from greed, pride and revenge. While this book serves as a historical look at one incident in history, it also sheds light on the world at large and the continuation of smuggling today. It reminds readers to continue to stand against the character traits and temptations that keep others enslaved. For example, how does our need for social capital push others down, take advantage of them or refuse to see humans as people? Are we more interested in getting a deal than in providing local and international workers with a fair wage? Let's not repeat history.
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This is the true story of smuggling, the slave trade, and chocolate on a schooner called the Rising Sun.  On June 1, 1743, three sailors murdered four people in  bid to take over the ship and make more money.  This is the story of that attempted takeover and the story of the lives on board.
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I enjoyed reading this book, and I feel fortunate that I got a free review copy. I have some disconnected (from each other) things to say about it. Here they are:

– I thought the most interesting part of the book appeared at the end. Readers may enjoy this book in a different way if they read the Epilogue first, which is about the modern repercussions of this 18th-century historical event. I will avoid spoilers, but you can read a bit about it here:

https://www.aam-us.org/2021/09/17/how-a-disturbing-historical-discovery-inspired-a-new-mission-at-old-north-foundation/

The research mentioned in the article I have linked to is, I believe, the research that went into this book.

– Here on Goodreads, readers frequently say they don't like the author's writing or his style, but in many cases there's no indication what exactly was wrong with it. I'd like to give an example here of some writing in this book that I didn't like, with the idea that you, the reader, may judge for yourself and perhaps decide that I am simply a hyper-picky fussbudget (maybe) and/or a person who loves to complain (certainly).

These sentences appear mid-paragraph at Kindle location 1100 of my free advance copy of this book:

    … “Relations,” as John Newton, a former slave trader turned abolitionist, later described to the House of Commons, “were separated as sheep and lambs are separated by the butcher.” Newton's passive voice elided the conscious decisions men like Clarke, Ledain, Jackson, and Tothill made when they destroyed families. …

In the first sentence above, the author (to his credit) chose a powerful quote from an actual contemporary witness. The quote is creates a powerful image from plain words, especially because the reader knows that, once sheep and lamb are separated, they are slaughtered. This is the kind of thing that might stick in your mind long after you have laid your preferred reading device aside. But then the author (I felt) lessened the punch of the strong image from the long-ago voice by commenting on its grammar.

Like the books of many academics who attempt writing that will also appeal to readers of non-academic popular history, this book is sometimes lessened, I thought, by bits directed toward fellow professionals, for example, an explanation of why it was sometimes necessary to use the word “slaves”, instead of “enslaved persons”.

On the other hand, I was happy to see the frequent, vigorous, and proud deployment of the Oxford comma throughout this book, from the title onward.

– When I am not offering up my opinions on Goodreads to a somewhat indifferent world, I teach English. Some of that time, I teach English composition. Some of that time, I teach the dreaded five-paragraph “essay of persuasion”, in which the student is offered up some problem and must offer up a course of action to solve same. Since students often must organize their thoughts and write under deadline pressure, it is not surprising that their answers tend to be a little simplistic (I certainly could not do any better). A favorite method of exiting five-paragraph hell is to write, in essence, “There should be a law against X”, and explain the benefits of a law outlawing, say, pollution, riding a motorcycle without a helmet, assault rifle ownership, etc.

While it is clearly good to have, for example, a cleaner environment and fewer people in hospitals, what cannot be jammed into a five-paragraph essay is a thoughtful discussion of how many laws is too many laws, and what happens when reasonable and understandable laws are standing cheek-by-jowl with less reasonable laws. I thought of this while reading this book because the 18th-century law (new at that time) preventing the buying and selling of human beings was a good and reasonable law, but the law of the same period which forbade the sale of goods outside the limits of one's native empire was not so reasonable. In this case, cocoa produced in the Dutch colony of Suriname could not legally be sold in the British empire, which gave rise to the smuggling trade portrayed in this book, wherein chocolate from Suriname was smuggled into the British colony of Barbados. The fact that no one in Barbados actually farmed cocoa never seemed to bother anyone, questions were not asked. From Barbados, cocoa was free to make its way to the chocolate-craving hordes of colonial New England via the port of Boston, enriching many in the process.

Here's the thing: in my sight, the laws forbidding inter-empire trading set up the infrastructure of criminality that then allowed the slave-trade to flourish. Merchants were already risking life and liberty to engage in the relatively harmless act of bringing a commodity to the markets of people who wished to buy them. To accomplish this end, they bought ships designed to outrun pursuit, hired crew members of flexible morality, greased the palms of colonial officials – creating what I think economists may call “sunk costs”. Once you already have fast ships, morally-compromised crew members, and paid-off corrupt officials in place, it's only a short step to engage in additional activities that are not only illegal but also truly reprehensible, like the trafficking in human beings. This, I believe, illustrates the problems generated by an excess of laws: it turns some normal people, who might otherwise be law-abiding (some for moral reasons, others for practical reasons), into criminals. These normals-turned-criminals then get experience at criminality, which make them better at it, and more inclined to plunge into more reprehensible activities.

It's hard to figure out how many laws are too many laws. Many laws are in place for a good reason. Any particular law's net benefit or loss to society is nearly impossible to determine reliably. Why does everything have to be so hard?

I received an uncorrected advance electronic galley copy of this book from NYU Press via Netgalley. Thanks for the free stuff.
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My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher NYU Press for an advanced copy of this new nautical history book.

Jared Ross Hardesty in the book Mutiny on the Rising Sun: Tragic Tale of Slavery, Smuggling, and Chocolate details not only the insurrection on the ship Rising Sun, but the foul practice that brought all the players together on that dark, savage night. An examination not only of killing of the merchants on board, a crime that gripped people on three continents, but the commodity that lead to their deaths, chocolate and slaves.

I was familiar with the triangle trade, England to Africa to America, back again that traded molasses, rum and slaves, but the smuggling of chocolate with human slaves as payment was new to me. Mr. Hardesty goes deep into chocolate, detailing why it was so in demand, the problems with supply, and how port taxes made smuggling it easier and more profitable. I found this part of the story interesting if not depressing. Also Mr. Hardesty gives biographies of the merchants who lost their lives in their dirty trade, explaining business practices, connections, religious ties, and how every successful merchant seemed one step away from economic collapse. Plus the politics of smuggling, why and how it was allowed, and the profit that could be made at it. 

The book is well written and researched. I enjoyed the asides about trying to follow these characters through history and how Mr. Hardesty tracked down what he could. Those looking for a simple true crime story might be disappointed by the lack of crime sensationalism. However the crime and the punishment are covered well, including transcripts and Dutch translations. A very interesting book full of crime, history and chocolate. Great for readers of  nautical or mercantile history.
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Decent read, though much less about the mutiny and much more about race than I was expecting based on the description and title. Really, only about 5% of the book is about the mutiny and another 5% is about the direct consequences of it. The vast majority of the book is about the world in which the mutiny happened and what the mutiny "meant" according to the author.


The first chapter of the book, which reads as a short biography of the mutinied captain, was plenty interesting and gave a lot of cool background info for the story. Unfortunately, the next chapter of the book was filled with biographical data (when and where the men were born, whom they married, their earlier expeditions, etc) on other men aboard ship, so we basically learned the same background info twice. By 25%, the book was already dragging. I had hoped that was simply an issue of a slow start to set the stage for an exciting remainder of the book, but then the third chapter was all about the history of slavery, specifically the slave trade, and very little about the mutiny at all. It wasn't until chapter 4, 36% in, that we really got to the mutiny mentioned in the title of the book (other than small snippets about it before this). Though first we had to delve into the backgrounds of all the other crew members not so far discussed in depth, once again slowing things way down. After the actual mutiny happens, things were really interesting for a while, detailing what happened to the mutineers and those left alive on the ship. However, that ended quickly and the remaining half of the book was fairly boring and seemed to have very little to do with the mutiny. So much of the book is about the aftermath of the mutiny but it didn't seem to really be all that connected to me. It's almost like the author wanted to write about racial issues and smuggling/trading and they just chose a random mutiny to put in the title so people would pick up the book. It's really not a fair title.

Though this book was a bit slow at times and wasn't really about what the title may suggest, it was interesting to use the mutiny as a window into the world of the 1740s, especially in such an interesting place that we so rarely hear about. I realize the importance of books like this that highlight the black and brown people in history who have been largely ignored, but I don't think it was totally fair to make it seem like this book was about a mutiny when it really was about so much more.

Great photos/artwork throughout and more interesting appendices than most books of this type.

I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This book covers a topic I believe is rarely-mentioned in history and I learned a lot thanks to the detail and well-researched background. I liked the true-crime aspect combined with the intriguing story line.
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This is a well-researched look at one incident into something I didn’t even know happened-smuggling cacao in America in the mid-1700s. At least that is where it started. Hardesty uses it as an example of what was going on in that arena. By the time he finished looking into it, he had found slaving, piracy and all sorts of other illegal activities that kept commerce moving in the colonies of the West Indies, British America, and Dutch South America.

This isn’t the most thrilling topic, but it definitely interesting. It could have devolved into a morass of names and dates, but it didn’t. Hardesty keeps it moving. There was more documented information than I would thought possible for a single incident that took place in Suriname in 1793. That was impressive.

In short, this was not a bad historical read.
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Started did not finish. Downloaded the Kindle edition and almost every other letter was missing, especially "th" combinations. Date #s were also missing. This made it unreadable.
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Jared Ross Hardesty’s The Mutiny on the Rising Sun: A Tragic Tale of Slavery, Smuggling and Chocolate captures the drama of a mutiny and its aftermath but also provides a convincing and meticulously-documented exploration of the economic forces behind it. Hardesty excels both at historical analysis and storytelling, crafting a book that will please historians and lay readers alike.
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A well written historical novel. I found the storyline intriguing and held my interest. The main characters were presented with good background and quotes so the reader could better understand what had happened. A very good nautical true crime story.

Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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