England outlawed slavery in its empire, with some exceptions, in 1834. Richard Huzzey in Anti-Slavery and Empire in Victorian Britain says that this claim was an important part of the English identity at the time and gave the English a sense of moral superiority over most of the rest of the world. I am not a professional historian but anybody with even a passing knowledge of the actions of English in Ireland and Indian will know that this was a thorough going delusion. Huzzey's book is an attempt to explain why the British were among the first countries to outlaw slavery and how this played a large part in their international relations.
The truth, as Huzzey explains, is not so simple. There were people in England very passionate about slavery and there were others opposed to slavery for purely political and economic reasons. Some of the countries competing with England on the world stage were partially dependent on slaves for their prosperity. There were also those in British society who did equate the working conditions of people in factories to near slavery.
Huzzey brings up a lot of interesting facts. One of the was his explanation of the linkage of the value of slaves to the value of sugar. As the cost of sugar rose or fell so did the price of slaves. In a way antislavery campaigns helped bring about a climate of racism as most of the classic works on slavery like Uncle Tom's Cabin depicted Africans as intellectually inferior. Conservative forces in English society were concerned with compensation for slave owners and were even more concerned how freed slaves would fit into society.
Huzzey's book covers events all over the world, from the West Indies to India.
I would say his book is interesting. Maybe it is little to broad in its scope.
I would say that at a cost of $29.95 I endorse the publication of this book to well funded libraries.
In the interests of full disclosure I was provided a free copy of this work.
Post a Comment