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Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for Original Sources, 9 May 2009
This review is from: A Short History of Slavery (Paperback)
It has taken me a long time to read Walvin's Short History of Slavery. I really had no idea of the magnitude of slavery. I knew that there had been a slave trade but I didn't know how, or where, or why. Walvin is stronger on the first two. The book contains a very large selection of original documents which he quotes in full. Sometimes they reveal the minds at the time... sometimes they are just rather obscure. The bare fact completely re-frame my understanding of the Western world. All African families that have lived for generations in the US would originally have arrived, barely alive, from below deck on a slave ship. Walvin is a superb scholar. On the other hand, from my point of view there is not enough discussion of why it all took place. Why did so many Africans betray their own people and bring them to the African coast to sell to the Europeans? Just as many Jews are known to have betrayed their own people to the Nazis?

On the positive side - the book also details the strength and perseverence of the abolitionists. Clarkson and Wilberforce worked tirelessly for a generation travelling around the country aided, most notably by the Quakers who printed abolutionist tracts by the million and then later by working class women.

I am very glad to have read this book as it has utterly reframed my understanding of history but I wouldn't recommend it as a starting book on the subject. Read something simpler to start and then progress to this for the next level. And - in case you had no idea of the numbers - it is thought that between 6 and 10 million died in the Nazi concentration camps. 12 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic to become slaves in the fields of the Americas and the West Indies.
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Location: London

Top Reviewer Ranking: 205,159