This review essay analyzes recent historiography of American abolitionism, with especial attention to the importance of formal politics. Considering expansive syntheses, cutting-edge monographs, and recent journal articles, it reviews a wide range of influential scholarship on the American antislavery movement published in the last five years. First describing twentieth-century historiographical developments that misinterpreted or downplayed political abolitionists, this essay then discusses new studies emphasizing politics and policy. It also highlights recent work that is beginning to expand the actors, geography, and chronology of the political history of American abolitionism. By reframing abolitionism as a political movement, we will gain clearer understandings of both antislavery activism and of the broader political history of the Civil War era.


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