What kind of background did the sailors in the book have?What were general characteristics of the crew members backgrounds?
The crew members of the ships were cruel and mean as one would expect. Since no records were kept for slaves who dies during transportation, it is impossible to account for the lives lost. While the men were paid for the number of live slaves delivered to the New World (and so it was in their best interest to have as many survive the trip as possible) they were also quick to through dead and dying Africans overboard. The book tells of Edward Kimber, who forced the female passengers to dance naked for his crew. He ordered a fifteen year old girl to be flogged to death when her modesty forced her to refuse. He was tried for her murder, but was found not guilty: the death of an African girl was not considered murder by British courts.
The captains reported that they had to be been in order to prevent uprisings, but Rediker suggests the real reason was to break the slaves of their old lives. If they survived they would be sold to the New World plantations, so the crew removed the last bits of freedom from their spirit before the ships docked.