Not Made by Slaves: Ethical Capitalism in the Age of Abolition

Not Made by Slaves: Ethical Capitalism in the Age of Abolition

by Bronwen Everill


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How abolitionist businesses marshaled intense moral outrage over slavery to shape a new ethics of international commerce.

“East India Sugar Not Made By Slaves.” With these words on a sugar bowl, consumers of the early nineteenth century declared their power to change the global economy. Bronwen Everill examines how abolitionists from Europe to the United States to West Africa used new ideas of supply and demand, consumer credit, and branding to shape an argument for ethical capitalism.

Everill focuses on the everyday economy of the Atlantic world. Antislavery affected business operations, as companies in West Africa, including the British firm Macaulay & Babington and the American partnership of Brown & Ives, developed new tactics in order to make “legitimate” commerce pay. Everill explores how the dilemmas of conducting ethical commerce reshaped the larger moral discourse surrounding production and consumption, influencing how slavery and freedom came to be defined in the market economy. But ethical commerce was not without its ironies; the search for supplies of goods “not made by slaves”—including East India sugar—expanded the reach of colonial empires in the relentless pursuit of cheap but “free” labor.

Not Made by Slaves illuminates the early years of global consumer society, while placing the politics of antislavery firmly in the history of capitalism. It is also a stark reminder that the struggle to ensure fair trade and labor conditions continues.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674240988
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 09/01/2020
Pages: 328
Sales rank: 597,523
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Bronwen Everill is the 1973 College Lecturer in History at Gonville & Caius College, University of Cambridge. She is the author of Abolition and Empire in Sierra Leone and Liberia and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Bad Tobacco 1

1 Anxious Consumers 25

2 Goods of Questionable Morality 55

3 Protecting Ethical Brands 80

4 Rotten Credit 108

5 Picking Winners 140

6 A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats 173

7 Consumer Nationalism in Black and White 204

Epilogue: Global Social Responsibility 238

Abbreviations 247

Notes 249

Acknowledgments 305

Index 309

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