Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism / Edition 1

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Overview

Revisiting the origins of the British antislavery movement of the late eighteenth century, Christopher Leslie Brown challenges prevailing scholarly arguments that locate the roots of abolitionism in economic determinism or bourgeois humanitarianism. Brown instead connects the shift from sentiment to action to changing views of empire and nation in Britain at the time, particularly the anxieties and dislocations spurred by the American Revolution.

The debate over the political rights of the North American colonies pushed slavery to the fore, Brown argues, giving antislavery organizing the moral legitimacy in Britain it had never had before. The first emancipation schemes were dependent on efforts to strengthen the role of the imperial state in an era of weakening overseas authority. By looking at the initial public contest over slavery, Brown connects disparate strands of the British Atlantic world and brings into focus shifting developments in British identity, attitudes toward Africa, definitions of imperial mission, the rise of Anglican evangelicalism, and Quaker activism.

Demonstrating how challenges to the slave system could serve as a mark of virtue rather than evidence of eccentricity, Brown shows that the abolitionist movement derived its power from a profound yearning for moral worth in the aftermath of defeat and American independence. Thus abolitionism proved to be a cause for the abolitionists themselves as much as for enslaved Africans.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A comprehensive and encyclopedic analysis of early British abolitionism that will be standard reading for all interested in the subject.--Journal of the Early Republic

Elegant and persuasive. . . . Effectively reframe[s] our traditional portraits of antislavery as humanitarian reform more generally at the turn of the eighteenth century.--William and Mary Quarterly

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Christopher Leslie Brown is associate professor of history at Rutgers University and coeditor of Arming Slaves: From Classical Times to the Modern Age.
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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Antislavery without abolitionism 33
Ch. 2 The politics of slavery in the years of crisis 105
Ch. 3 Granville Sharp and the obligations of empire 155
Ch. 4 British concepts of emancipation in the age of the American revolution 209
Ch. 5 Africa, Africans, and the idea of abolition 259
Ch. 6 British evangelicals and Caribbean slavery after the American war 333
Ch. 7 The society of friends and the antislavery identity 391
Epilogue : moral capital 451
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