© Matthew Crampton 2016

Book Reviews

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Songlines Magazine

‘A timely history of the tide of human cargo … if you get a chance to see the story-and-song show Human Cargo, don’t miss it.’

Cerys Matthews, BBC 6 Music

‘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.’

School Librarian

‘A vital insight into history which resonates today … well worth seeking out.’

Living Tradition Magazine

‘Well-researched … fascinating … a great read.’

Morning Star

‘A dark and harrowing read. But … a vital one to help understand the timeless reasons people have been driven from their homes.’

Folk London

‘Though frequently disturbing, Human Cargo makes for compulsive, if not compulsory, reading.’


‘I have never linked today’s news to the slave trade, the press gangs and forced emigration of the past. Matthew Crampton’s book makes that link.’


‘This little gem of a book … thoroughly recommended.’

All About Jazz

‘A very fine book…’

Camden New Journal

‘A vivid picture of centuries of extreme cruelty and extraordinary crime.’

Read extracts from the book


An eight year old boy is kidnapped on the quayside in 18th century Aberdeen - and sold into servitude in the Carolinas in Colonial America.


After the African slave trade was abolished, many slavers simply transferred their business model to the south western Pacific.


In 1904 a young Japanese woman called Minami Haru was trafficked to Singapore as a sex slave. In 1998 a young Albanian woman, Maria, was similarly trafficked into Italy. Their stories are similar.


During the American Civil War, the northern states sent recruiting agents to Ireland, offering free passage to a new life in the US - in return for a little fighting. The story’s told in the song By the Hush / Paddy’s Lamentation.