Liberty's Captives

Narratives of Confinement in the Print Culture of the Early Republic

Associate editor Christina Brown, Dixon Bynum, Randy Jasmine and Salita Bryant

Edited by Daniel E. Williams

Title Details

Pages: 344

Trim size: 6.125in x 9.250in

Formats

Paperback

Pub Date: 06/25/2006

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2801-0

List Price: $30.95

Liberty's Captives

Narratives of Confinement in the Print Culture of the Early Republic

Associate editor Christina Brown, Dixon Bynum, Randy Jasmine and Salita Bryant

Edited by Daniel E. Williams

Skip to

  • Description
  • Reviews

An astonishing variety of captivity narratives emerged in the fifty years following the American Revolution; however, discussions about them have usually focused on accounts of Native American captivities. To most readers, then, captivity narratives are synonymous with "godless savages," the vast frontier, and the trials of kidnapped settlers. This anthology, the first to bring together various types of captivity narratives in a comparative way, broadens our view of the form as it shows how the captivity narrative, in the nation-building years from 1770 to 1820, helped to shape national debates about American liberty and self-determination.

Included here are accounts by Indian captives, but also prisoners of war, slaves, victims of pirates and Barbary corsairs, impressed sailors, and shipwreck survivors. The volume's seventeen selections have been culled from hundreds of such texts, edited according to scholarly standards, and reproduced with the highest possible degree of fidelity to the originals.

Some selections are fictional or borrow heavily from other, true narratives; all are sensational. Immensely popular with American readers, they were also a lucrative commodity that helped to catalyze the explosion of print culture in the early Republic. As Americans began to personalize the rhetoric of their recent revolution, captivity narratives textually enacted graphic scenes of defiance toward deprivation, confinement, and coercion. At a critical point in American history they helped make the ideals of nationhood real to common citizens.

Liberty's Captives makes a valuable and original contribution to the field of captivity narrative studies by expanding and theorizing generic boundaries and making available obscure and fascinating texts.

—Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola, editor of Women's Indian Captivity Narratives

In Liberty's Captives Williams recovers a cache of treasure too long buried in popular print culture. Here we find the full text of prisoner-of-war narratives from the nation's first two wars, as well as from its adventures on the Barbary Coast; pirate captivities and shipwreck narratives; and accounts of maritime impressment, among others. And as with his earlier Pillars of Salt, Williams not only proves a capable editor but places his material in the full frame of American cultural history. Finally, the book not only greatly enlarges our understanding of the term 'captivity narrative' but also raises important questions about the relation of liberty to bondage in the New Republic. From its pages come voices we are likely never to forget.

—Philip Gura, author of Jonathan Edwards: America's Evangelical

About the Author/Editor

DANIEL E. WILLIAMS is a professor of English at Texas Christian University. He has also edited an anthology of early American criminal narratives, Pillars of Salt.