This companion to Davis' earlier works on slavery is not on slavery at all. In the tradition of R.R. Palmer, but with a...

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THE PROBLEM OF SLAVERY IN THE AGE OF REVOLUTION, 1770-1823

This companion to Davis' earlier works on slavery is not on slavery at all. In the tradition of R.R. Palmer, but with a keener sense of social forces, Davis reconstructs a period which most poignantly joined the complications and potentialities of Enlightenment thought, parliamentary institutions, and capitalist expansion. The treatment of the new United States and of Latin America is rich but relatively inconsequential. The most important topic embraces the West Indies, religious reformers, and the British ruling class. The book explores various righteous and self-righteous campaigners against enslavement of blacks in general and the colonial slave trade in particular. Davis shows that many of them were simultaneously moving to end poor-law public assistance at home, and suppress domestic radicalism. Even such firebrand characters as the Abbe Gregoire and Toussaint L'Ouverture shared the British vision of global capitalist development combined with ""reinforcement of legitimate authority."" The London policymakers decided that since ""neither the West Indian planters nor the English workers understood their own true interests,"" it was necessary ""to apply a negative pressure"" against ""their obsolete ways."" This involved, within England itself, ""freeing"" small children to work in the mills. Davis contests in turn economic determinism in the sense that Parliamentarians stood to make personal profits; deliberate hypocrisy; and the apologias of slave-holders that wage labor was just as evil as bondage. The book, to be followed by a study of the pro-abolition, anti-working-class reformer William Wilberforce, is a major contribution.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 1974

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Cornell Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1974