Notes on Slavery in Context

All of the texts in the “Slavery in Context” section display a clear detachment from the enslaved people whose lives they were debating. Whether they subscribed to ideologies like “white man’s burden,” moral high ground, or idealism, all of the authors misread critical situations that overall work to keep the enslaved people in chains. There were efforts to romanticize the trade, to dehumanize the people, and to reduce the trade to capitalist numbers or false facts. Most striking of this obvious lack of self-awareness, morality, and common decency is the treatise by an anonymous writer in 1788. The author misinterprets and misconstrues facts in an effort to make Africa sounds horrific and hostile and to suggest that enslaved people were lead to a life of greater pleasure, safety, and prosperity than if they had been left to rot in Africa. The descriptions of the horrors of Africa actually sound like English horrors in a mask, with capitalism as the despots, London debtors prisons and workhouses, the prevalence of extreme poverty in English cities, and the impurity and corruption of British systems of justice and commerce, among others. London’s poor and Africa’s disenfranchised actually seem to have rather similar lots, as slavers sell Africans like manufacturers sell poor Britons. This lack of self-awareness will become an important part of Romanticism, as poets like Keats and Wordsworth seek to become more and more in connection with their individual selves and the world they inhabit.


About abbaxjane

Devoted writer, reader, pen pal, post card collector, raven admirer, anglophile, tea drinker, music lover, and binge watcher.
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