Manchester: A Micro-Historical Approach to British Abolitionism, 1787-1807 Open Access

Kuzmanovich, Daniel Adam (2014)

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During the eighteenth century, England dominated the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The English simultaneously experienced an economic boom and international ascendancy into the British Empire. The northern city of Manchester also profited greatly as its textile industry exported predominantly to Africa and the West Indies. In 1787, however, the Anti-Slave Society was founded and twenty years later the 1807 Slave Trade Act abolished the British slave trade. Manchester was the hotbed of the abolitionist movement and sent several mass petitions to Parliament supporting bills to end the slave trade. The levels of abolitionist fervor and popular mobilization in Manchester, however, are ironic and surprising. Manchester's economic connections to the slave trade were so strong that, prior to 1787, abolitionists and anti-abolitionists alike expected the Mancunians to condemn any act limiting the slave trade. This Manchester paradox--popular mobilization despite economic self-interest--is not adequately explained by the historiography of British abolitionism. Micro-historical analysis of Manchester, however, shows that the Mancunians were well-aware of their interests in the slave trade but still supported abolition. The extant sources suggest that Mancunians knowingly mobilized for the good of their fellow humans on humanitarian, religious, and moral bases rather than continuing their lucrative ties to the slave trade. More micro-historical analysis of Manchester and its paradox through a broader array of sources has the potential to clear a path through the dense thicket of macro-historical debate by showing how the large institution of British abolitionism was understood in a small place like Manchester.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Slavery & the Rise of the British Empire 9

The Rise of Manchester 14

The Economic Debate in Manchester 17

Humanitarianism 23

Popular Mobilization 31

Conclusion 35

Appendix: Abolitionist Broadside, Manchester 37

Works Referenced 38

Works Consulted 40

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