By Srividhya Swaminathan

How did the arguments constructed within the debate to abolish the slave exchange aid to build a British nationwide identification and personality within the overdue eighteenth century? Srividhya Swaminathan examines books, pamphlets, and literary works to track the adjustments in rhetorical suggestions used by either side of the abolitionist debate. Framing them as competing narratives engaged in defining the character of the Briton, Swaminathan reads the arguments of professional- and anti-abolitionists as a sequence of dialogs between different teams on the middle and peripheries of the empire. Arguing that neither facet emerged victorious, Swaminathan means that the Briton who emerged from those debates represented a synthesis of arguments, and that the debates to abolish the slave alternate are marked through rhetorical changes defining a twin of the Briton as one who led obviously to nineteenth-century imperialism and a feeling of worldwide superiority. as the slave-trade debates have been waged overtly in print instead of in the back of the closed doorways of Parliament, they exerted a novel impact at the British public. At their peak, among 1788 and 1793, guides numbered within the hundreds and hundreds, spanned each style, and circulated through the empire. one of the voices represented are writers from each side of the Atlantic in conversation with each other, equivalent to key African authors like Ignatius Sancho, Phillis Wheatley, and Olaudah Equiano; West India planters and retailers; and Quaker activist Anthony Benezet. all through, Swaminathan deals clean and nuanced readings that eschew the view that the abolition of the slave alternate used to be inevitable or that the last word defeat of pro-slavery advocates was once absolute.

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Increased variety in goods and their availability to a larger segment of the population provided a daily reminder of overseas enterprises. T he often fabulous sums accumulated by the colonial elite brought out the contempt of the aristocracy and the jealousy of the poor. ” With this tentative awareness, eighteenth-century social critics extended their analyses to the colonial societies that necessitated interactions between E uropean and non-E uropean peoples. T he A merican, West Indian, and E ast Indian colonies each functioned according to differing principles of government that challenged the singular construction of “civil society” that had prevailed in L ocke’s time.

24 T he relationship between the antislavery cause and emerging capitalist economic system in Great Britain has been thoroughly discussed in historical scholarship. The first historian to make a connection between the movement and capitalism was E ric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (1944, reprinted Chapel H ill: University of N orth Carolina, 1994). T hough his work is considered dated, his thesis set off a debate that continues in historical scholarship today. , The Antislavery Debate: Capitalism and Abolitionism as a Problem in Historical Interpretation (B erkeley: University of California Press, 1992).

T he rhetoric of revolution violently challenged government and its ability to meet the needs of its people, questioned the existence of oppressive social hierarchies, and questioned each citizen’s access to the rights owed them by their sovereign nation. T he varying threads of these arguments pervaded the rationale for revolution and profoundly affected the language of reform. T he rebellion of the A merican colonies introduced a critique of the colonial enterprise to the public and threatened strongly held beliefs in B ritish character.

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