Demon Cruelty

Eric Foner

  • The Slave Ship: A Human History by Marcus Rediker
    Murray, 434 pp, £25.00, October 2007, ISBN 978 0 7195 6302 7

Last year’s bicentennial of Britain’s outlawing of the Atlantic slave trade inspired a host of scholarly and popular commemorations: conferences, exhibitions, even a big-budget film, Amazing Grace, that made an unlikely matinee idol of William Wilberforce. All these events took place in an atmosphere suffused with self-congratulation. The crusade against the trade and the government’s eventual response offers a usable past for a society increasingly aware of its multiracial character: a chapter of history of which all Britons can be proud.

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[*] Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism (North Carolina, 496 pp., £15.50, 2006, 978 0 8078 5698 7).