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Bury the Chains: The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery [Unabridged] [Paperback]

Adam Hochschild
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Jan 2006
From the award-winning author of King Leopold's Ghost, the dramatic story of the men who ignited the first great human rights movement


Product details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; 1 edition (20 Jan 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330485814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330485814
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 463,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"'Hochschild's marvellous book is a timely reminder of what a small group of determined people, with right on their side, can achieve. Carefully researched and elegantly written, with a pacy narrative that ranges from the coffee houses of London to the back-breaking sugar plantations of the West Indies, it charts the unlikely success of the first internatinal human rights movement' Saul David, Literary Review 'Hochschild is such a gifted researcher and story-teller that he never fails to hold the reader's attention...For all its terrible theme, Hochschild's book is not in the least depressing, because it is suffused with admiration for the courage and enlightenment of the men and women who crusaded against this evil, and finally prevailed' Max Hastings, Sunday Telegraph 'Thought-provoking, absorbing and well-written' Brendan Simms, Sunday Times 'Stirring and unforgettable' Economist"

Book Description

Eighteenth-century Britain was the world’s leading centre for the slave trade. Profits soared and fortunes were made, but in 1788 things began to change. Bury The Chains tells the remarkable story of the men who sought to end slavery and brought the issue to the heart of British political life. ‘Hochschild's marvellous book is a timely reminder of what a small group of determined people, with right on their side, can achieve. Carefully researched and elegantly written, with a pacy narrative that ranges from the coffee houses of London to the back-breaking sugar plantations of the West Indies, it charts the unlikely success of the first international human rights movement' Saul David, Literary Review 'Hochschild is such a gifted researcher and story-teller that he never fails to hold the reader's attention. . . For all its terrible theme, Hochschild's book is not in the least depressing, because it is suffused with admiration for the courage and enlightenment of the men and women who crusaded against this evil, and finally prevailed' Max Hastings, Sunday Telegraph 'Thought-provoking, absorbing and well-written' Brendan Simms, Sunday Times 'Stirring and unforgettable' Economist

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story, brilliantly written 17 Mar 2006
Format:Paperback
This is history as it should be written. Meticulously researched and written like a novel. The book not only sketches the British campaign to abolish slavery but also gives a great insight into the slave trade in the British empire at its peak. It offers a re-assessment of the role of Wilberforce - traditionally the hero of the anti slavery campaign - who the author sees as a conservative religious zealot. I would have liked to know more about the slave trade in other countries - France, Spain and Portugal - but there is more than enough here to entertain, inform and inspire.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb history - but unfair to Wilberforce 28 Jun 2006
By Womble
Format:Paperback
Bury the Chains is great history, colourful, passionate and informative. But in its efforts to rehabilitate Clarkson at the expense of Wilberforce, it's actually rather unfair to Wilberforce.

For example, for 12 years of the 20-year abolition campaign, Clarkson had nothing to do with it, having had a breakdown, while Wilberforce carried on relentlessly. Hochschild brushes past that whole period in five pages (of a 467-page book), sidelining Wilberforce's essential contribution to the campaign.

If you take that bias into account, however, its a great read, and absolutely inspiring.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Ross
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The abolitionist movement was, Hochschild says, "first sustained mass campaign anywhere on behalf of someone else's rights." in history, as such he considers it to be the ancestor of all modern mass campaigns. The story of the abolition campaign takes in the leading lights of the movement whose personalities and eccentricities are brought to life vividly, as well as the supporters throughout the country who individually had little influence ( most of them could not vote ) but whose mass boycotts of slave produced sugar sent a powerful signal as did the petitions on a scale that parliament had never witnessed before. The role of women was remarkable for the era.

The other side of the debate, the pro slavery forces, are also heard although thankfully not caricatured although some of the propaganda they put forward were so preposterous that it is hard for a 21st century man not to laugh out loud, such as the idea of rebranding slaves as 'assistant planters'.

Before any of this though 'Bury the Chains' begins by discussing the conditions of slaves themselves so as to avoid the danger of viewing the horrors involved in the abstract as well as to put in context the importance of slavery in late 18th century Britain's economy and how readily it was taken for granted. It was unthinkable to outlaw the practice. Towards then end of the book the major slave revolts are also covered.

The key abolitionists were William Wilberforce, James Stephen, Granville Sharp, Olaudah Equiano and John Newton all of whom merit longer treatment than I can provide here, however if one man is seen in this book as indispensible to the cause it was Thomas Clarkson.

Clarkson was recruited to the cause when as a young man he entered and won an essay competition set up by Sharp.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tremendously powerful, moving read... 29 Nov 2011
By C. Ball TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." This book is the story of those thoughtful, committed citizens, beginning with twelve men who met in a bookshop in London in 1787 to form a society committed to abolishing the slave trade.

The story of that campaign is really quite astonishing. The slave trade's demise was helped by the incredible organisation of those original twelve men, who effectively invented almost every aspect of campaigning that we know today - petitions, lectures, boycotts, public pressure, advertising, puff pieces in newspapers, fliers, posters, books. In less than a single lifetime slavery went from an institution that no-one questioned, the economic bedrock of the British Empire, a system in which fortunes were made and increased, to being abolished. When you think about it, that's incredibly fast. Think about the issues that excite us today - sweatshops, poverty, sex trafficking. Can you imagine any of those being solved within our own lifetimes?

I couldn't put this book down. It moved me to tears on more than one occasion, particularly Hochschild's final conclusion: "...one of the first great flowerings of a very modern belief: that the way to stir men and women to action is not by biblical argument, but through the vivid, unforgettable description of acts of great injustice done to their fellow human beings. The abolitionists placed their hope not in sacred texts, but in human empathy. We live with that hope still."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's not a novel but......................... 27 Nov 2011
By Fengirl
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
......this book is absolutely gripping, heartbreaking and shaming. I was stunned to find out who was the owner of the largest, cruellest plantation - yuk.
Being of the Fens - it was good to find Thomas Clarkson properly credited for his enormous contribution to the abolition of this vile trade; as he often seems to have been overlooked in favour of Wilberforce.
Read the book and weep but be proud too of these great men
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