Roger Ekrich makes history more interesting in telling true story of "Kidnapped"





According to my research, every 11-year-old has read Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. What I didn't know when I was 11—and, in fact, didn't know until a couple of weeks ago—is that Kidnapped was based on a true story. In 1728, a boy named James Annesley, the son of a baron, was kidnapped, forced into indentured servitude, escaped, and tried to prove his aristocratic lineage in the days before fingerprints, photographs, and DNA.

That true story is told in a new book, Birthright: The True Story That Inspired Kidnapped, by Roger Ekirch, a history professor at Virginia Tech. Mr. Ekirch spoke about the book yesterday at the Library of Congress. It was all very interesting but these are the two things that stuck with me most:

• In 18th-century England, kidnapping was a misdemeanor while stealing a horse was a felony punishable by death.

• This quote from Baron Arthur Anneseley, James's father: "If you come to live with me you shall never want a shilling in your pocket, a gun to fowl, a horse to ride, or a whore."...


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