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How Reliable was Thomas Clarkson for Finding out About the Middle Passage?

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Introduction

How Reliable was Thomas Clarkson for Finding out About the Middle Passage? Thomas Clarkson was born in Wizbech in 1870, and became interested in slave trade later on in his life. Him and a few others eventually managed to abolish it. Clarkson came to think about slave trade with an open mind. This makes him a reliable source because he didn't think much of the slave trade until he had to find evidence for his essay. This means that he didn't think it was good or bad until he found good, clear evidence, which shows he wasn't one sided. He also interviewed 20,000 sailors who were in this trade. This means he heard the same thing hundreds of times which gave him good evidence from his research. So this is obviously saying he is a reliable source as he has researched his facts to make sure they are true. Clarkson did a lot of research around the world. He gathered equipment on board the ships such as whips and knives, and interviewed many people in the trade. ...read more.

Middle

He also says that it was stinking below decks. Source A backs up what he said, as it says there was a "stench and bad air". I think this source is accurate as the man who wrote it was a doctor and travelled on four slave ships. This means he knows what he was talking about when it came to the illnesses and he had the experience of actually being on the ships, whereas Clarkson didn't. Another point that he made was that they were treated badly, for example cut up or "mangled". But, in source D John Newton says that he washed his slaves with freshwater rather than salt water, which is more caring as they are likely to have cuts, burns and blisters so the sea salt would be painful. But John Newton was a slave trader and had said this before he became a Christian, so he may be lying. Plus if there was plenty of salt water and not as much fresh water, he probably did not want to use up the freshwater on washing the slaves. ...read more.

Conclusion

Clarkson says that a few slaves attempted, and some succeeded suicide. In source H, it says that "death was more preferable than life". Cugoano was kidnapped as a child and sold as a slave, so is writing from his own account. This makes him more trustworthy as he experienced it, and other sources also agree. He also said that many slaves died onboard the ship because of bad health. In source J it says "the air was unfit for breathing and bought on a sickness among the slaves". This was written by Olaudah Equiano who was describing his journey on the middle passage when he was 11 years old. I trust this source because he had been through this ordeal himself and wouldn't devote his life to abolishing the slave trade if he was lying about it being so terrible. In conclusion I think that Thomas Clarkson is reliable for finding information about the slave trade. This is because many other sources agree with him, and they wont be saying the same thing for no reason, and his background makes him more trusting too. ...read more.

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