Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Abolitionism and Imperialism in Britain, Africa, and the Atlantic

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Abolitionism and Imperialism in Britain, Africa, and the Atlantic

Article excerpt

Abolitionism and Imperialism in Britain, Africa, and the Atlantic, edited by Derek R. Peterson, Athens OH: Ohio University Press, 2010, x + 235 pp. ISBN (hardback) 978-0-8214-19014, $64.95 (paperback) 978-0-8214-1902-1, $20.95.

This slim but rich volume refreshes well worn debates in the study of slavery and abolition (Did the abolition of slavery owe more to religion and idealism or to economic forces and self interest? How stand Eric Williams' arguments six decades after the publication of Capitalism and Slavery? What were the economic and social consequences of abolition? Does scholarship support or subvert the hagiography of abolitionism? Was abolition achieved more by elite politics or popular pressure? What was the role of slave and African agency? What of African complicity? Has there been an undue concentration on the upperclass and charismatic figure of Wilberforce?) It also opens up new debates and perspectives.

In a masterly introduction, fuelled by wide reading and reflection, Derek Petersen shows that these debates resonated geographically far beyond Britain and chronologically well beyond the early eighteenth century. Drawing on his own specialist knowledge of east Africa he shows how the discourses of slavery, freedom and British values were taken into the bitter and still unresolved Ganda /Ngoro dispute over the "lost counties" - a theme developed in the sometimes chilling final chapter by Jonathan Glassman's deconstruction of myths and histories of slavery in Zanzibar and their echoes in racial violence and politics in twentieth century Zanzibar. Peterson summarises:

This book is an effort to expand the temporal and geographic frame in which the history of abolitionism is conceived... Abolitionism was a theatre in which a variety of actors - slaves, African rulers, Caribbean planters, working-class radicals, African political entrepreneurs, Christian evangelicals - played a part. This varied cast of characters was not working from a script authored in London, The Atlantic was an echo chamber in which abolitionist symbols, ideas and evidence were generated from a variety of vantage points. This book highlights the range of political and moral projects in which the advocates of abolitionism were engaged, and in so doing it joins together geographies that are normally studied in isolation, (p. 17)

The introduction is followed by seven essays, all by eminent scholars and all readable and thought provoking. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.