Letters on West Africa and the Slave Trade: Paul Erdmann Isert’s Journey to Guinea and the Caribbean Islands in Columbia (1788)


Isert, P.E.: Translated and Edited by Selena Axelrod Winsnes


Dr. Winsnes is active Scandinavian researcher on West African history

Isert’s book, in the form of 12 long letters evidently written for publication, has excited great interest ever since there publication in 1788. Written in German, not P.E. Isert’s native Danish, the work has long been regarded as a key tool in understanding Danish involvement with the West Africa trade and the establishment of a flourishing Danish West Indian colony (now the American Virgin Islands). This is the first translation from German to English.

Isert is of interest because he approached his subjects in a scientific and scholarly way: a child of the Enlightenment he was an active botanist and physican and he became a gifted amateur ethnologist after his arrival in Accra. In start contrast to many of his contemporary European colleagues he showed a great sympathy, interest and respect for Africans and their customs and beliefs. He also was fascinated by the material culture around him and left excellent descriptions of customs, clothing, martial arts,music and recreation. Isert also tried to create a large plantation in Ghana to counteract the slave trade. His descriptions of Danish and French plantation life and plantation methodsin the late 18th c round out this indispensable book.

West Africa, Caribbean Studies, African History 18th c., Ghana, Slavery
Release Date: 
Paper: 978-9988647-01-8
Trim Size: 
5 ½ x 8 1/2

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