ABOLITION! by Richard S. Reddie


The Struggle to Abolish Slavery in the British Colonies
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Appearing on the bicentenary of Parliament’s Abolition Act, which halted British involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, Reddie’s accessible and sensitive overview traces the history of African enslavement, specifically in the West Indies.

This slim but thorough study presents an astonishing amount of information, from a brief look at African civilizations before the Europeans arrived through the mid-19th-century scramble to colonize and exploit the continent after emancipation. There is a great deal of history to wade through before the Quakers declared their opposition to slavery by the late 18th century. Reddie credits Christopher Columbus with initiating the transatlantic slave trade, while unscrupulous Plymouth-born merchant John Hawkins, who led an expedition party in what is now Sierra Leone to seize 300 Africans in 1562, became one of the first English slave traders. Although England was slow to accrue islands in the West Indies, it joined the lucrative trade in “sub-human” cargo with the establishment of the Royal African Company (RAC) in 1672, helping to turn Bristol and Liverpool into major slaving centers. Slave trading became respectable, and the author points out how many illustrious personages were deeply conflicted over it. Events that profoundly influenced the abolitionist cause included the violent slave revolt in St. Domingue (Haiti), the American War of Independence and the deliberate drowning of 133 Africans aboard the British slaver Zong in 1781. Quaker leader Thomas Fowell Buxton and Methodist John Wesley denounced slavery as inhuman, as did feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft. Activists Granville Sharp, freed slave Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Clarkson and MP William Wilberforce, among many others, fought against it tirelessly. Reddie examines the passive role of the Anglican church, the troubling subject of African collusion in slave trafficking and the horrors of the Middle Passage, and he helps correct some fallacies concerning slavery’s legacy.

Students of history will value this well-balanced survey.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7459-5229-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Lion/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2007


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