“The editors have done an extraordinary and important job of introducing Philip Quaque’s voice to a new generation of readers. They have set the bar very high for others preparing editions of the correspondence and writings of Quaque’s contemporaries in this period of fertile circum-Atlantic exchange.”
—International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Born around 1740 at Cape Coast, in what is now Ghana, Quaque was brought to England by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. In 1765 he became the first African ordained as an Anglican priest. He returned to Africa and served for fifty years as the society’s missionary and also as chaplain to the Company of Merchants Trading to Africa (CMTA) at Cape Coast Castle, the principal slave-trading site of the CMTA.
Quaque sent more than fifty letters to London and North America reporting on his successes and failures, his relationships with European and African authorities, and his observations on the effects of the American and French revolutions on Africa. The regular references to his African mission in popular magazines made Quaque well known in the English-speaking world. Initially writing when the transatlantic slave trade went largely unquestioned, Quaque in his later letters traces the period of abolitionist fervor leading up to the ban in 1808. Although his employers supported and facilitated slavery, Quaque’s letters reveal his evolving opposition to both slavery and the slave trade, particularly in his correspondence with early abolitionists.
Quaque’s life offers a fascinating perspective on transatlantic identity, missionary activity, precolonial European involvement in Africa, the early abolition movement, and Cape Coast society.
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