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Rational dissent, enlightenment and abolition of the British slave trade


Page, A, Rational dissent, enlightenment and abolition of the British slave trade, The Historical Journal, 54, (3) pp. 741-772. ISSN 0018-246X (2011) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright © 2011 Cambridge University Press

DOI: doi:10.1017/S0018246X11000227


In 1807 Britain abolished the slave trade and since then the origins and nature of popular abolitionism have been the subject of much debate. Traditionally religion was seen as the driving force, with an emphasis on the Quakers and Evangelicals. In the twentieth century social historians began to stress the importance of economic and social change. This article revises both of these interpretations by helping to recover and analyse the abolitionism of enlightened Rational Dissenters. Legal inequality and their ‘rational piety’ encouraged heterodox Dissenters to become active in a wide range of reformist causes. Owing to Evangelical dominance in the nineteenth century, however, the abolitionist role of Rational Dissenters was marginalised in histories of the movement. Recovery of Rational Dissenting abolitionism underlines the importance of religion in the campaign against the slave trade, while also broadening our sense of the varieties of ‘vital religion’ in Enlightenment Britain. Rational Dissent was to a large extent a religion of the commercial classes in England and thus this article also sheds light on the hotly debated relationship between capitalism and abolitionism.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:rational dissent, enlightenment, abolition, slave trade
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:British history
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology
UTAS Author:Page, A (Dr Anthony Page)
ID Code:68940
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:10
Deposited By:History and Classics
Deposited On:2011-04-05
Last Modified:2018-03-15
Downloads:11 View Download Statistics

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