Antislavery and empire: The imperial context of British Abolitionism, c.1783-1793

Speaker(s): 
Matthew Wyman-McCarty (McGill)
Date: 
22 February 2012

In this seminar Wyman-McCarty looks at the rise of British abolitionism in an imperial context, detailing the Atlantic slave trade in addition to the harmful practices of the East India Company as case studies. Wyman-McCarthy begins by describing the abolitionist beliefs and emphasizing the differences in debates regarding these two cases studies, continuing on to state that later on, the British presence in the Atlantic and in East India were increasingly discussed in analogous terms at the time. This contextual information is then used to detail the historiography of abolitionism in Britain. The podcast details the many causal factors which led to rising British abolitionism including the original theory in the nineteenth century that abolitionism had been the result of a small group of pious men who ‘awakened the moral consciousness of the nation’, through to the Erick William’s 1944 thesis that there was an economic motive for abolitionism and the later disproving and questioning of this. Other causal factors are also incorporated such as the growing black community in London serving as a reminder of ongoing slavery after the American Revolution, as well as the fact that many questioned Britain’s claim of liberalism and humanitarian while such activity in East India continued. Other context such as how it was thought Britain could ‘atone’ for their sins in the Empire once slavery was abolished are also discussed.

Resources
History SPOT blog post (6 September 2012)

Geographical area: 
History type: 
Antislavery and empire: The imperial context of British Abolitionism, c.1783-1793 | Institute of Historical Research

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