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Nelson's Caribbean Hell-Hole: An Eighteenth Century Navy Graveyard Uncovered

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You’ve been offered a job in Antigua, the paradise in the West Indies. Fantastic news, yes? Not if you were an 18th-century British sailor on one of the 20 warships moored in English Harbour. “I detest this country,” Horatio Nelson wrote while on duty there, and judging by the archaeological evidence, he had good reason to. Warfare and tropical diseases were the least of their worries: the naval rum rations were distilled in poisonous lead vessels, and with each man drinking a pint a day, the British forces were tormented by their own poisonous grog.


After the discovery of human bones on a beach in Antigua, historian Sam Willis investigates one of the darkest chapters of Britain's imperial past. As archaeologists excavate a mass grave of British soldiers, he explores the island's ruins and discovers how the sugar islands of the Caribbean were rife with sun, sea, war, tropical diseases and poisoned rum.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Dr Sam Willis
Director Rupert Edwards
Producer Rupert Edwards


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