When in 1741 a rash of fires followed a theft in pre-revolutionary New York City, British colonial authorities came to suspect an elaborate conspiracy led by slaves and poor whites who intended to burn the city and hand it over to Britain's Catholic foes. Within seven months, roughly 200 people were arrested, 17 were hanged, and 70 others were expelled from New York. This book abridges the transcript Justice Daniel Horsmanden kept of the trials. His record of the testimony of slaves and working-class whites provides extraordinary clues to the nature of race, class, and gender relationships in colonial New York City and raises questions about the nature and extent of the alleged conspiracy. Serena Zabin's introduction provides context by describing slavery, tavern culture, and the legal system as well as explaining British tensions with France and Spain. Additional documents include newspaper accounts of the Antigua and Stono Rebellions and letters concerning the 1741 trials to help students make connections among these uprisings and the atmosphere of fear and suspicion they created. Document headnotes and glosses, lists of trial participants, a chronology of events, questions for consideration, a selected bibliography, and an index provide strong pedagogical support.
SERENA R. ZABIN is an assistant professor of history at Carleton College, where she previously served as the Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow. She has also taught at Rutgers University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is at work on a monograph entitled Places of Exchange: New York City and the Slave Conspiracy Trials of 1741. Her scholarship has been recognized by grants and prizes from the American Association of University Women, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, among others. A former classicist, she has also published scholarly and pedagogical materials on the ancient Mediterranean.