William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner
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William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner

by William Hague
     
 

From William Hague comes a major biography of abolitionist William Wilberforce, the man who fought for twenty years to abolish the Atlantic slave trade.

Wilberforce, born to a prosperous family, chose a life of public service and adherence to Evangelical values over the comfortable merchant existence that was laid out for him. Of a conservative bent, Wilberforce

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Overview

From William Hague comes a major biography of abolitionist William Wilberforce, the man who fought for twenty years to abolish the Atlantic slave trade.

Wilberforce, born to a prosperous family, chose a life of public service and adherence to Evangelical values over the comfortable merchant existence that was laid out for him. Of a conservative bent, Wilberforce was actively hostile to radicals and revolutionaries, but championed one of the great liberal causes of all time—the abolition of slavery—and was an invaluable contributor to its ultimate success. When Parliament finally outlawed the slave trade in 1807, Wilberforce did not rest on his laurels but took part in the campaign for the abolition of slavery itself. He never held or desired a cabinet post, but became an expert in any subject he addressed as a member of Parliament. And although his convictions were informed by deep religious fervor, he never hesitated to change his mind upon reflection. Hague captures all of these nuances and complexities in this clear-eyed, humane, and moving biography.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR William Pitt the Younger

"Mr. Hague covers Pitt's career with elegance and panache . . . [He] has written a very fine biography of this immensely important figure in British history."—Wall Street Journal

"William Hague's book is a model of orderly exposition and narration . . . Anyone really interested in British history or in politics ought to read it."—Frank Wilson, Philadelphia Inquirer

Publishers Weekly

William Wilberforce was a key figure in Adam Hochschild's 2005 Bury the Chains. Now the British antislavery campaigner gets his own well-deserved biography in this clearly written, sympathetic work by Hague (William Pitt the Younger), a member of Britain's shadow cabinet. A longtime legislator and close associate of William Pitt the Younger, Wilberforce (1759—1833) became convinced of the righteousness of abolition after becoming an evangelical Christian in 1785. Hague devotes some attention to Wilberforce's personal life, but devotes the lion's share of his book to his subject's political activity. A noted speaker, Wilberforce was also amiable and a dogged negotiator, traits that served him well during his decades-long effort. His campaign paid off twice, first in 1807, when Britain abolished the slave trade, and then, just months before his death in 1833, with the abolition of slavery. Hague provides plenty of historical context about Britain's involvement in the slave trade and British domestic affairs, making this rewarding reading for those interested in the history of Britain as well as the history of the battle for equality and justice. 24 pages of b&w photos. (June)

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Kirkus Reviews
Richly satisfying biography of a great humanitarian who was also thoroughly likable. It took 20 years of struggle by William Wilberforce (1759-1833) before the House of Commons finally voted in 1807 to abolish the slave trade, observes former British Conservative Party leader Hague (William Pitt the Younger, 2005). Great parliamentary figures from William Pitt to Charles James Fox loved Wilberforce for his intelligence, wit, warmth and political acumen, even when they did not share his fervent religious convictions. Son of a rich merchant, he entered Parliament in 1780 and in 1785 converted to Evangelicalism, an intense movement that believed Christian principles applied to all areas of life, public as well as private. When Wilberforce decided in 1787 to oppose the slave trade, he joined a tiny group of religious advocates; most Englishmen were indifferent. The abolitionists launched the first modern, issue-oriented PR campaign with a torrent of speeches, rallies, pamphlets and sermons, and within a few years almost everyone had an opinion about slavery. Parliamentary opponents, who claimed that abolishing the trade would impoverish Britain, were on the defensive when disaster struck. The French Revolution threw Europe into turmoil; its armies seemed invincible, and its defenders denounced slavery, tainting the abolitionist cause in patriotic Britons' eyes. Prime Minister Pitt, who was against the slave trade, turned his attention to national defense. Wilberforce became a voice in the wilderness, repeatedly introducing his antislavery bill, eloquently defending it and watching it fail. But the passage of years rendered the issue less controversial, and persistence gradually weakened theopposition. By 1807, even the House of Lords did not object, and Parliament overwhelmingly approved the Abolition Act. Hague paints a dynamic picture of Wilberforce as a man obsessed with his Christian obligations who continually excoriated himself for falling short. Hearing today's leaders proclaim deep religious convictions, especially around election time, readers may feel that they don't make Christians like they used to. Agent: Michael Sissons/PFD

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780151012671
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
06/16/2008
Pages:
582
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

WILLIAM HAGUE has served in various capacities in the British government since 1989, including Leader of the Conservative Party. He is the shadow foreign secretary and senior member of the Shadow Cabinet, and the author of William Pitt the Younger. He lives in Yorkshire, England.

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