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Title: The problem of anti-slavery in the 'age of capital', c. 1830-1888
Author: Kelly, J. G.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7428 5037
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis explores the relationship between Britain and transatlantic slavery in the post-emancipation period. Following West Indian emancipation various types of British capitalists continued to profit from both the slave trade and slave-ownership. These economic connections had to be rationalised within a Britain politically and ideologically committed to anti-slavery. I propose that the British government, abolitionists, and capitalists were faced with the problem of anti-slavery, namely the question of whether it was possible to operate morally in an Atlantic economy built upon chattel slavery. I explore a number of controversies relating to both British slave-ownership and involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. I argue that these debates must be considered as part of a longer tradition of slavery apologism that stretched back to the struggles over slave trade abolition and West Indian emancipation. In doing so I complicate our understanding of Britain as anti-slavery nation. Debates over British involvement of in transatlantic slavery blended economic and moral arguments. As such my thesis stresses the historically contingent nature of appeals to economic rationality, a key strategy of British capitalists justifying profiting from slavery. By examining business records, private correspondence, and government papers I establish the material basis of British involvement with transatlantic slavery. I also analyse debates that took place in newspapers, journals, and parliament to explore the arguments advanced about Britain, commerce, and slavery. I demonstrate how British capitalists justified profiting from transatlantic slavery through a construction of Britons as more civilized than foreign slave owners, slave traders, and enslaved people. That this imagined geography provided a solution the problem of anti-slavery speaks to the heterogeneous nature of anti-slavery ideology in Victorian Britain.
Supervisor: Ashworth, William ; Huzzey, Richard ; Kenny, Stephen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral