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Title: Lord Palmerston and British anti-slavery, 1830-1865
Author: McGregor, Robert George
ISNI:       0000 0004 9356 9115
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis considers Lord Palmerston’s relationship with British anti-slavery, that is the Government’s efforts to suppress the international slave trade and to abolish global slavery, from his entry into the Foreign Office in 1830 through to the end of his second Liberal Premiership in 1865. By bringing together the fields of Palmerston studies and British anti-slavery studies, the extent and nature of Palmerston’s anti-slavery policy as well as the motivations that underpinned it can be more clearly understood. This biographical focus simultaneously reveals a great deal about Palmerston’s worldview, identity and legacy, whilst providing a new vantage point from which to reassess anti-slavery politics in mid-Victorian Britain. Furthermore, it raises questions about the nature of the core beliefs which informed Victorian political culture. By examining Palmerston’s overarching strategy for suppressing the slave trade and the practical implementation of that approach over time, making extensive use of private papers, parliamentary speeches and Foreign Office dispatches, this thesis demonstrates the important role played by Palmerston in guiding Britain’s anti-slavery movement. The analysis considers Palmerston’s negotiations with an array of countries from three continents and explores how Palmerston cajoled, pushed and forced foreign nations to accept and/or comply with Britain’s convictions, albeit to different degrees depending on how highly individual countries ranked on his imagined ‘scale of civilisation.’ It is clear, however, that the extrinsic influence of public opinion, broadly conceived, had a limited impact upon Palmerston and is an incomplete means by which to explain his lifelong enthusiasm for anti-slavery. Palmerston’s determination to suppress that traffic was inspired by a mix of intrinsic motivations, including a sense of moral duty, a desire to advance Britain’s economic, political and imperial interests, as well as sincere humanitarian impulses. Anti-slavery politics had a complex and profound impact on Palmerston during this period, leading him to describe the suppression of the slave trade as his life’s proudest achievement, yet it is an aspect of his career seldom appreciated by historians. It is this thesis’ attempt to make sense of Palmerston’s lasting relationship with this movement, especially his motivations for engaging with it, that much of this work’s originality can be found. An examination of Palmerston’s language of duty and compassion, of his responses to various forms of Parliamentary and extra-Parliamentary pressure, and of the extent and ways in which he was able to use antislavery as an instrument of Great Power politics add a unique contribution to our knowledge of Palmerston and Palmerstonism, illuminates the complicated nature of Britain’s anti-slavery movement, and demonstrates the liberal-internationalist values inflecting Victorian political culture.
Supervisor: Brown, David ; Petley, Christer Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available