In the late 18th century, a small group of Englishmen went out on a limb and put forward the radical notion that slavery was wrong. At first, their proposal that Enlightenment ideals of equality and liberty should be extended to the millions of African slaves held in Britain’s colonies looked like a non-starter. “The idea of ending slavery seemed totally utopian, crackpot, wildly too idealistic,” says journalist and writer Adam Hochschild. Yet, as Hochschild recounts in his new book, Bury The Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves, these abolitionists proved themselves right in far less time than anyone might have imagined. Slightly more than 50 years after its humble birth in a London print shop in 1787, the British antislavery movement overturned the atrocity that had formed the economic backbone of the world’s most powerful empire.
~ Dave Gilson (January 10, 2005)