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William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner Hardcover – 4 Jun 2007


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; 1st Edition edition (4 Jun 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007228856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007228850
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 4.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 47,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'The author has produced a splendid read for which he deserves the utmost credit. He tells Wilberforce's story with such enthusiasm and narrative skill that, in this bicentennial year, his book seems assured of bestsellerdom. I put it down liking Hague as much as I was moved by his tale, one of the most remarkable in British political history.' Sunday Times

'Gripping…absorbing…the definitive biography.' Daily Mail

'In William Hague, Wilberforce has found a sympathetic, judicious biographer…Hague has written the best modern study of this remarkable man.' Mail on Sunday

'Informed by a nuanced sense of what was and was not politically possible at that moment…lucid and convincing…gripping.' Daily Telegraph

‘William Hague has assumed from Roy Jenkins the mantle of Britain's foremost politician-biographer. This magnificent biography of William Wilberforce succeeds his good debut life of William Pitt…his achievement goes far beyond an attractive prose style and meticulously accurate historical re-recreation. The insights drawn from a wide parliamentary and political experience bring to life the genius of the great anti-slave trade campaigner in a wholly new and vivid way.’ Evening Standard

Daily Telegraph

'...lucid and convincing...gripping.'

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 79 people found the following review helpful By G. J. Weeks on 17 Aug 2007
Format: Hardcover
"A beacon of light which the passing of two centuries has scarcely dimmed". This is Hague's concluding assessment of Wilberforce. This fine biography should keep that light blazing. I think it will probably be the definitive biography of the great abolitionist for quite some time to come. Hague writes well and keeps one's attention throughout a long book. He is masterful at setting the historical scene. No doubt his previous biography of Wilberforce's friend Pitt was a great help in researching the period. One is given a real feel for a very different world where only men of means could afford to enter politics for getting elected, except to a rotten borough, could mean huge expense. It was a time when party allegiance was not so well developed and Wilberforce maintained his independence as a member of parliament for Yorkshire. He was a friend of Pitt but opposed him over the war with France as he opposed a later government over Queen Caroline. Hague does not fall into the trap of judging an historic figure by more modern criteria. Contemporary critics of Wilberforce disliked his social conservatism. His radicalism was aimed at stopping an evil trade not promoting cause of the poor close to home.Hague explains it. Wilberforce would give no support to those who would be socially disruptive and those applauding the French Revolution. His detestation of what had happened in France, Hague rightly identifies as Wilberforce's opposition to all things against religion.

One expects Hague to be good on the politics of Wilberforce's life but I was pleasantly surprised by his understanding of his subject's Evangelical faith. Christian faith we know transformed Wilberforce from a pleasure seeking young man into an ardent reformer. It was the motivation in all his subsequent life.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Sean on 9 Aug 2007
Format: Hardcover
William Hague follows up his debut biography of Pitt the Younger with Pitt's best friend and tireless slave-trade campaigner. It is the perfect sophomore effort. Similar era; one of the closest friendships in politics, yet, some great differences between the two great men. Pitt, the son of the great Chatham; by no means wealthy; eager for ministerial power. Wilberforce: from a very wealthy mercantile background; advocating the abolition of the slave-trade as an `Independent' constituent for Yorkshire.

I too disagree with a previous reviewer who seems to criticise Hague's book on his own personal dislike of Wilberforce, not on the merits of the book itself. I have to say that Hague paints a very fair and unbiased account of Wilberforce. Wilberforce considered himself an `Independent', not a Tory. He could be rightly called one of `Pitt's friends' but famously turned against Pitt in opposition to the Revolutionary War; he managed to remain on friendly terms with Fox and Grenville as a matter of fact. Hague does point to certain faults: his licentious youth, his frequent inability to commit to one side of an argument; his complete naivety on military affairs. The biography as a whole however is favourable to what emerges as a brilliant man; Hague quite rightly makes great use of contemporary descriptions of Wilberforce and offers a succinct argument for his policies.

For anyone who believes politics are boring, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Hague's description of the various machinations building up to the 1807 act is about as dramatic and exiting as it gets. Those were certainly exiting times in politics: two Revolution and two subsequent wars; Irish Union; reform; the trial of Warren Hastings; Catholic emancipation; the slave-trade etc..
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By mattghg on 27 Dec 2008
Format: Hardcover
Relased to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1807, this detailed and engaging biography really makes clear the moral conviction, determination and no small degree of political skill that enabled Wilberforce (1759 - 1833) to lead the campaign against first the slave trade, and then slavery itself, for so many years. In so doing, it provides well-reasoned answers to questions like: Why did Wilberforce first campaign against the slave trade, and not slavery itself? Was abolition inevitable for purely economic factors? How strong was his influence in advancing the cause of abolition outside of the British Empire?

This book also shows how the aforementioned qualities combined to make Wilberforce perhaps the last and greatest truly independent British politician, from his election to the House of Commons in 1780 to his retirement in 1826. A close friend of William Pitt (the younger) from a young age, and often instinctively socially conservative, Wilberforce nevertheless was not afraid to oppose Pitt and his Tory government on issues as serious as war with France. When there was a constitutional crisis over the divorce of Prince George (the future George IV) and Caroline of Brunswick, Wilberforce's political independence made him the ideal mediator in many people's eyes at the time.

Hague makes no attempt to play down the importance of a profound (Evangelical) Christian faith to Wilberforce's work. After a time spent with a Methodist aunt and uncle as a teenager, and conversations with Isaac Milner later, Wilberforce gave his life to Christ in 1785. Pitt was surprised, but convinced his friend that his Christian convictions would be best served by continuing in public life.
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