Crowns of Glory, Tears of Blood

The Demerara Slave Rebellion of 1823

by Emilia Viotti da Costa

The night of August 17, 1823 saw the start of one of the most massive slave rebellions in the history of the Western Hemisphere, the uprising in the British colony of Demerara (now Guyana), in which nearly twelve thousand slaves took up arms against their masters. In Crowns of Glory, Emilia Viotti da Costa tells the riveting story of this pivotal moment in the history of slavery. Studying the complaints brought by slaves to the office of the Protector of Slaves, she reconstructs the experience of slavery through the eyes of the Demerara slaves themselves. Da Costa also draws on eyewitness accounts, official records, and private journals (most notably the diary of John Smith, one of four ministers sent by the London Missionary Society to convert Demerara's "heathen"), to paint a vivid portrait of a society in transition, shaken to its foundations by the recent revolutions in America, France, and Haiti. Casting new light on the nuances of racial relations in the colonies, the inevitable clash between the missionaries' message of Christian brotherhood and a social order based on masters and slaves, and the larger historical forces that were profoundly eroding the institution of slavery itself, Crowns of Glory is an original and unforgettable book.

  • Oxford University Press; May 1994
  • ISBN: 9780198024439
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Crowns of Glory, Tears of Blood
  • Author: Emilia Viotti da Costa
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

"A riveting drama and a magnificent historical tract."--Booklist
"A riveting account of the rebellion that gave new urgency to the British Anti-Slavery Movement."--Quarterly Black Review
"Extraodinarily moving and analytically nuanced....This book certainly represents an impressively significant contribution to the historiography....Among the outstanding achievements of this work is its common accessibility to specialists across a variety of disciplines as well as the general reader. Eminently readable and solidly researched, this work deftly explores the multifaceted links between individuals and groups, colony and metropolis, and divergent views of the world."--American Historical Review
"A first-rate account of a little-known episode that had large consequences for Britain and for the world: careful, professional scholarship married to a well-told story."--Kirkus Reviews
"Da Costa triangulates brilliantly between the worlds of the slaves, the slave owners, and the missionaries to bring alive the irony and tragedy of this great rebellion. I know of no other study that goes so searchingly and movingly to the ideological heart of a slave revolt."--James C. Scott, author of Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance
"With thorough, judicious research, Yale history professor da Costa reconstructs one of the greatest slave uprisings...of the New World.'"--Publishers Weekly
"In a narrative of extraordinary depth, da Costa has not simply recounted the horrors exposed in a major slave revolt and its suppression, she has used the revolt to explore the complex web of human relations, the hopes and fears, the hatred and compassion, that lie beneath the formal structure and outward activities of every society."--Edmund S. Morgan, author of American Slavery, American Freedom and The Challenge of the American Revolution
"[Viotti da Costa] has made effective use both of the background material and of a considerable mass of both primary and secondary sources....This book is a skillful representation of an important episode into which many attitudes and strands of feeling and their interaction were woven."--Labor History

About The Author

A native of Brazil, Emilia Viotti da Costa is Professor of History at Yale University, and the author of The Brazilian Empire: Myths and Histories.