The Hated Cage

The Hated Cage: An American Tragedy in Britains Most Terrifying Prison
by Nicholas Guyatt 2022

About the Author
I was born in the UK, studied at Cambridge and Princeton, and then taught American history in the US, Canada and the UK (an interesting experience!). I’m currently Professor of North American History at the University of Cambridge. I’ve written about American history and politics for the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, the Nation magazine, the Guardian, and many other publications. I’m the author of six books including the forthcoming THE HATED CAGE, which will be published by Basic Books in 2022. I write a lot about the tortured relationship between racism and ideas of equality in American history. When I’m not teaching or researching I like to hike and to garden (neither very successfully) and occasionally to tweet. I live with my wife, my two teenage kids and two tremendous cats in Cambridge, and when Covid is behind us I can’t wait to visit the United States again.

About the Book
The War of 1812 – the last time Britain and America went to war with each other.

British redcoats torch the White House and six thousand American sailors languish in the world’s largest prisoner-of-war camp, Dartmoor. A myriad of races and backgrounds, with some prisoners as young as thirteen.

Known as the ‘hated cage’, Dartmoor wasn’t a place you’d expect to be full of life and invention. Yet prisoners taught each other foreign languages and science, put on plays and staged boxing matches. In daring efforts to escape they lived every prison-break cliché – how to hide the tunnel entrances, what to do with the earth…

Drawing on meticulous research, The Hated Cage documents the extraordinary communities these men built within the prison – and the terrible massacre that destroyed these worlds.

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‘This is history as it ought to be – gripping, dynamic, vividly written’ Marcus Rediker

Summary of Preface (excerpt)

  1. Dartmoor Prison Massacre of American Prisoners (1815)
  • In April 1815, more than 5,000 American prisoners were being held in Dartmoor Prison in England.
  • A commotion broke out and a smaller crowd of prisoners attempted to punch a hole in the prison’s inner wall between the yard and barracks building.
  • British soldiers began shooting at the escaping prisoners without mercy after 6 pm that same evening.
  • Frank Palmer, one of many Americans trapped within the walls of Dartmoor Prison, noted his estimation of ‘British humanity’ had never been lower.
  • Due to fear from further violence, wounded Americans remained too afraid to cross the yard for medical attention when shooting stopped.
  1. The 1814 Dartmoor Prison Massacre
  • On April 6th 1814, a deadly massacre took place at Dartmoor Prison in England.
  • The prison was run by Captain Thomas Shortland, a Royal Navy captain.
  • Survivors of the massacre blamed Agent Shortland for ordering guards to fire and leading a rampage through the yards.
  • Nathaniel Pearce accused British turnkeys of locking prison block doors, preventing inmates from fleeing, and killing an American who was carrying a wounded man on his shoulders.
  • The barbarity witnessed during this incident recalled the darkest days of America’s founding struggle; worse than even that of Boston Massacre in 1770.

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