Travels of Gustavus Vassa the African

Vassa traveled extensively, having come from the interior of the Bight of Biafra, in the heart of Igboland, and taken the coast, probably leaving via the slave port of Bonny in 1754. By his own account, he was taken to  Barbados and then to Virginia, where he was bought by British naval officer, Captain Pascal, and taken to England. His subsequent travels are located on this portal. A preliminary map of Vassa's itinerary has circulated widely, and is reproduced here. There are several prominent errors on this map, including the fact that Vassa went to New York in 1784, and that he was on the Mosquito Shore, as it was called, not the Mosquito Coast, and he did not travel as far as Cartagena, as indicated on the map. Despite these revisions, the map accurately depicts the extensive travels of Vassa. A more detailed map is required to trace Vassa's travels in Britain and Northern Ireland.



The map was prepared by Miles Ogborn, a historical geographer at Queen Mary, University of London. It was drawn by Edward Oliver, a cartographer in the same department. The map is discussed in greater detail in Miles Ogborn, "Global historical geographies, 1500-1800," in B.J. Graham and C. Nash (eds), Modern Historical Geographies (Harlow: Longman, 2000). Published online by Brycchan Carey