Establishing context is important in understanding the significance of Equiano's World and the role that Gustavus Vassa played in the abolition movement. Vassa's autobiography does not always clearly establish context, and sometimes his own misunderstandings cloud an appreciation of his own evolution as an intellectual and poltical activist.

Questioning Equiano

Significance of his Name

The choice of name Gustavus Vassa seemed to have been prophetic, at least to Vassa later in his life, although it is still unclear why Captain Pascal selected that name of all names to call his newly purchased slave in 1754. Vassa's namesake was none other than the Swedish national hero, Gustavus Vasa (1496-1560), king of Sweden (1523-1560), founder of the modern Swedish state and the Vasa dynasty. Known as Gustavus Eriksson before his coronation, King Gustavus I was the son of Erik Johansson, a Swedish senator and nationalist, who was killed in the massacre at Stockholm in 1520, under the orders of King Christian II of Denmark, who was attempting to assert his control over Sweden through the Kalmar Union. Gustavus was imprisoned but escaped to lead the peasants of Dalarna to victory over the Danes, being elected protector of Sweden in 1521. In 1523 the Riksdag at Strangnas elected him king, ending the Kalmar Union that King Christian II of Denmark had been attempting to enforce. Two centuries later, English playwright Henry Brooke recorded these heroic deeds in his play, Gustavus Vasa, The Deliverer of his Country, published in 1739. Prime Minister Walpole banned the play for political reasons and it was not actually staged legally in London until 1805. And undoubtedly it was performed in London, and it was performed in Dublin in 1742 as The Patriot. Brooke's play was republished in 1761, 1778, 1796, and 1797. Hence the Swedish name had political significance in England that explains some association between Vassa and his namesake but does not explain why Pascal settled on the name in 1754.