School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Research Publications

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    Examining the Interest: British pro-slavery thought [Review of the book The Interest: How the British establishment resisted the abolition of slavery by Michael Taylor]
    Arnott, G (Australian Book Review, 2021-03-01)
    In August 1823, Quamina Gladstone and his son Jack led an uprising in the British sugar colony of Demerara where they were held as slaves. The men believed that the British parliament had voted to abolish slavery and that this was being concealed from them. The colonists quashed the rebellion with firepower, torture, and execution. Something had happened in Britain’s parliament: the Anti-Slavery Society’s Thomas Buxton had given a speech, proposing gradual reform. Yet it would take another decade, and much political upheaval, for the British parliament to abolish slavery. Michael Taylor’s book is set during these ten long years.
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    Links in the chain: legacies of British slavery in Australia
    Arnott, G (Australian Book Review, 2020-08-01)
    In 2007, Britain’s Royal Mint issued a £2 coin commemorating two hundred years since the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, the zero in ‘1807’ appearing as if a broken link in a chain. While interrupting the notorious transatlantic trade, the Act did not end slavery itself – that was achieved, at least in parts of the British world, with further legislation in 1833 that outlawed enslavement in the British Caribbean, Mauritius, and the Cape of Good Hope. Emphasis on the dramatic, if illusionary, chain-breaking moment in some bicentenary celebrations extended a tradition of dwelling on Britain’s role in slave emancipation. The years 1807 and 1833 functioned partly within British society to obscure the fact that Britain had been a willing and central player in the cruel transatlantic business for almost four hundred years. What’s more, commemorations often overlooked unfree labour practices that continued to proliferate throughout the British world. Britain brought freedom, the coin seemed to say.