© Matthew Crampton 2016

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‘Matthew Crampton has taken a fresh look at the worlds of slavery and emigration.


He’s unearthed some fascinating stories and, crucially, added folk song to let us hear from those whose voices are usually silenced.


Songs give such a distinct perspective on history - and this book gives us an elegant, vital insight into human suffering and survival.’


Cerys Matthews

How can history help us understand today’s refugee crisis?


This rich and timely book gives voice to emigrants, slaves, convicts and other human cargo from the 18th and 19th centuries.


Its striking mix of story and folk song sets these past voices beside testimony from today – so shedding new light on a defining disaster of our time. Read some great reviews.


Read the book. See the show.


Created by writer and folk singer Matthew Crampton, Human Cargo started life as a words-and-music show - performed by Matthew and the London Lubbers shanty group.


Listen to highlights from the show






‘Beautiful, powerful, poignant and informative’

Ilyaz Hajat, The Refugee Council, on the show

Stories that need telling


Today, smartphones can take us right into migrant boats. But how do we put a face on those trafficked or transported in the past? And how might their experience help us attend to those today in terrified transit?


Human Cargo includes personal testimony from those within the emigrant boats, the convict ships and the slave vessels.


You can read Olaudah Equiano’s rare description of the Middle Passage from a slave’s perspective; Peter Williamson’s account of being kidnapped as a child in Aberdeen and sold into servitude in colonial America; James M’Lean’s life as an American sailor pressed into the Royal Navy; and Robert Whyte’s passage on an Irish coffin ship.


You’ll hear from Scottish families cleared to make way for sheep, petty criminals transported to Australia, Pacific islanders enslaved for Asian plantations, Welsh emigrants to Patagonia, and many more.


Folk songs give voice to the silent


Only the rich or lettered leave record of their lives. But what of the masses? To hear their voices, Human Cargo turns to traditional folk songs - the anonymous and authentic record of popular feeling.


The lyrics of 25 folk songs appear within the book; some well-known, many obscure. Each song is a survivor, because people kept choosing to sing it. Together, they provide distinct windows into collective experience.


Modern testimony too


Alongside the old story and songs, the book features snapshots of human cargo in the 21st century - words from people trafficked, transported, enslaved or impressed in modern times. In their similarity to the past, for cruelty remains constant, they help bring that past alive.

HUMAN CARGO

Stories and Songs of Emigration, Slavery and Transportation

Matthew Crampton


Published by Muddler Books

Mid April 2016

Paperback, 168 pages

50 illustrations

£9.99

US$14.99

€12.95


Read extracts from the book



25 song lyrics including:


Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still


The Press Gang


The Slave Ship Ballad


All Around My Hat


Dean Cadalan Samhach


Jim Jones at Botany Bay


Mamma Mia Dammi Cento Lire


Carrying Nelson Home


The Flying Cloud


Matroos Af-Scheyt


The Bristol Bridegroom


Mr Tapscott


The White Cockade



Listen to Matthew talking to Cerys Matthews on BBC 6 Music.