The abolition of the slave trade is normally understood to be the singular achievement of eighteenth-century British liberalism. Abolitionism and Imperialism in Britain, Africa, and the Atlantic expands both the temporal and the geographic framework in which the history of abolitionism is conceived. Abolitionism was a theater in which a variety of actors-slaves, African rulers, Caribbean planters, working-class radicals, British evangelicals, African political entrepreneurs-played a part. The Atlantic was an echo chamber, in which abolitionist symbols, ideas, and evidence were generated from a variety of vantage points. These
essays highlight the range of political and moral projects in which the advocates of abolitionism were engaged, and in so doing it joins together geographies that are normally studied in isolation.
Where empires are often understood to involve the government of one people over another, Abolitionism and Imperialism shows that British values were formed, debated, and remade in the space of empire. Africans were not simply objects of British liberals' benevolence. They played an active role in shaping, and extending, the values that Britain now regards as part of its national character. This book is therefore a contribution to the larger scholarship about the nature of modern empires.
Derek R. Peterson teaches African history at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Creative Writing: Translation, Bookkeeping, and the Work of Imagination in Colonial Kenya and coeditor of Recasting the Past: History Writing and Political Work in Modern Africa.