The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848

The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848

by Robin Blackburn
     
 

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In 1770 a handful of European nations ruled the Americas, drawing from them a stream of exotic products and popular pleasures. Some two and half million black slaves, imprisoned in plantation colonies, toiled to produce the sugar, coffee, cotton, ginger and indigo craved by Europeans.

By 1848 the major systems of colonial slavery had been swept away either by

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Overview

In 1770 a handful of European nations ruled the Americas, drawing from them a stream of exotic products and popular pleasures. Some two and half million black slaves, imprisoned in plantation colonies, toiled to produce the sugar, coffee, cotton, ginger and indigo craved by Europeans.

By 1848 the major systems of colonial slavery had been swept away either by independence movements, slave revolts, Abolitionist movements or some combination of all three. Robin Blackburn shows how in some cases colonial rule was overthrown while slavery flourished (as in the South of the United States and in Brazil), in others slavery was suppressed but colonial rule conserved (the British West Indies, French Windwards) while in French St. Domingue, the future Haiti, and in Spanish South and Central America both colonialism and slavery were defeated.

This narrative of slave liberation and American independence highlights the pivotal role of the “first emancipation” in the French Antilles in the 1790s, the parallel action of slave resistance and metropolitan Abolitionism and the contradictory implications of slaveholder patriotism.

The dramatic events of this epoch are examined from an unexpected vantage point, showing how the torch of anti-slavery passed from the medieval communes to dissident Quakers, from African maroons to radical pirates, from Granville Sharp and Ottabah Cuguano to Toussaint L'Ouverture, from the black Jacobins to the Liberators of South America, and from the African Baptists in Jamaica to the Revolutionaries of 1848 in Europe and the Caribbean.

The Verso World History Series:
This series provides attractive new editions of classic works of history, making landmark texts available to a new generation of readers. Covering a timespan stretching from Ancient Greece and Rome to the twentieth century, and with a global geographical range, the series will also include thematic volumes providing insights into such topics as the spread of print cultures and the history of money.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“... a challenge to those who fondly suppose that slavery declined as ideas of Western ‘enlightenment’ spread ... Blackburn deserves praise for undermining complacency about the past—and the present.”—Christopher Hitchens, New York Newsday

“... an incisive synthesis of developments in North America, the Caribbean and Latin America. Blackburn’s book is bold and original ... One of the great strengths of The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery is its insistence that the slaves themselves were key players—and not only in Haiti.”—Richard Dunn, Times Literary Supplement

“... one of the finest studies of slavery and abolition to appear in many years.”—Eric Foner, Dissident

“... the first historian since Eric Williams to present a comprehensive interpretation. But Blackburn, profiting from and admirably synthesising the vast scholarship produced since Capitalism and Slavery (1944), is far less rigid and doctrinaire, much more attuned to the workings of politics. Unlike Williams, he includes slavery throughout the Western hemisphere ... Blackburn’s narrative, so rich in significant detail, demonstrates the fallacy of divorcing an abstract ‘humanitarian sensibility’ either from the political and class struggles within the British metropolis or from the militant action of colonial planters, the free blacks and the slaves themselves.”—David Brion Vavis, New York Review of Books

“Blackburn’s highly intelligent and well-written book is a substantial contribution. In this story the central event is the French Revolution.”—Victor Kiernen, London Review of Books

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780860919018
Publisher:
Verso Books
Publication date:
07/17/1989
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
572
Product dimensions:
1.27(w) x 9.00(h) x 6.00(d)

Meet the Author

Robin Blackburn teaches at the New School in New York and the University of Essex in the UK. He is the author of many books, including The Making of New World Slavery, The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, Age Shock, Banking on Death, and The American Crucible.

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