Amplifying women's intelligence through travel: Inna's tale in ‘The Booroom Slave’ (1828) by Sarah Bowdich

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Sarah Bowdich's story ‘The Booroom Slave’ has elicited little critical attention except in recent studies mainly investigating the black and white lithograph that accompanied its first publication in the Forget Me Not Gift Book in 1828. This article, however, focuses specifically on the text as an important tale of travel enhanced by its various strategic retellings. In the ‘Booroom Slave’, Inna first recounts her traumatic capture, journey to coastal slave markets, and escape through a male African interpreter when she meets the tale's (English) narrator, who then retranslates Inna's journey and its consequences for her literate readers. But this double telling of travel within the story is also matched by the two-fold iterations of the whole. It was similarly recast by male interpreters when reprinted in America in 1829 in The African Repository and Colonial Journal. Sarah Bowdich then reshaped it in 1835 for her Stories from Strange Lands by adding extensive footnotes elucidating its West African references from her own travel experience of 1816. By exploring these parallel, doubly reframed, female travel narrations, this article argues that ‘The Booroom Slave’ offers a critique of the limitations of the British/European civilizing mission that was far-sighted not only for the early nineteenth century, but also for the tale's postcolonial afterlives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-286
Number of pages18
JournalForum for Modern Language Studies
Issue number3
Early online date12 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015


  • Sarah Bowdich
  • 'The Booroom Slave'
  • Gift Book
  • Abolition of slavery
  • Literatures of scientific travel
  • Epistemologies of ignorance


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