The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, 1838–1956: A History by James Heartfield, and: Culpability of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade ed. by Abdul Karim Bangura (review)
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Reviewed by
Dorothy V. Smith, Professor emerita
Heartfield, James. 2016. The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, 1838–1956: A History. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 486pp.
Bangura, Abdul Karim, ed. 2017. Culpability of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group. 334pp.

In The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, 1838–1956: A History, James Heartfield, who has been teaching, writing, and campaigning around questions of international justice for thirty years, provides well-researched information on the fact that when West Indian slavery was abolished, in 1833, the worldwide antislavery campaign turned to the goal of universal emancipation. Veteran antislavery agitators Joseph Sturge, Lord Brougham, and John Scoble launched the society at a world convention in 1840.

Heartfelt writes: “This book is not a history of a movement, or of [a] moment, it is the history of an organization, the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, from its founding in 1839 through 1956, it was not wound up, but wound down its campaigning activity (there is today an organization, its successor, called Anti-Slavery International since 1990, which I have not written about here)” (p. vii). He adds that histories that touch upon the Anti-Slavery Society or the Exeter Hall philanthropists tend to present a picture of a group of well-meaning and perhaps priggish campaigners.

Apart from a preface, a list of illustrations, an introduction, copious notes, a bibliography, and a detailed subject index, the book is divided into three parts, consisting of eighteen chapters. Among the topics covered are abolition in Britain, slave trade diplomacy, the United States, Cuba, Brazil, Africa before the European “scramble,” Egypt, Sudan, the “scramble” itself, indentured labor, the Congo, South Africa, and land and labor in the twentieth century.

Heartfelt believes “The anti-slavery movement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was the impetus that gave rise to the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society” (p. 423). He adds: “The governing classes of the mid-nineteenth century were themselves the outcome of [the] reform movement of the preceding period, and so shared much of the outlook of the middle-class reformers, who were active in the anti-slavery movement” (p. 423). He also adds: “Slavery has today largely been abolished” (p. 425). [End Page 96] Most certainly, his book can benefit general readers interested in the study of the African slave trade, as well as researchers and students.

Abdul Karim Bangura, researcher-in-residence of Abrahamic connections and Islamic peace studies at American University’s Center for Global Peace and visiting professor of research methodology at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, has ably edited Culpability of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, a valuable book, providing sixteen well-researched essays, written from varied disciplinary perspectives. Among the contributors of the essays are Onimi Wilcox, associate dean at the Brailsford College of Arts and Sciences; W. Mathenge, associate professor of geography at Austin Peay State University; Mario D. Fenyo, professor of history at Bowie State University; Peter A. Dumbuya, professor of history at Fort Valley State University in Georgia and an attorney in Phoenix City, Alabama; Theodora O. Ayot, professor of history at North Park University in Chicago; Ibigbolade S. Aderibigbe of the department of religion and the African Studies Institute of the University of Georgia at Athens; Layman M. Abdullah of the department of political science at Howard University; J. Hopwood of the department of social sciences at the University of Maryland at Eastern Shore; I. N. Osondu, associate professor of geography at Fort Valley University; Dorothy N. U. Oluwagbemi-Jacob, a philosopher and former editor of Faculty of Arts Journal (Ndunude) at the University of Calabar in Nigeria; and Ngozi Caleb Kamalu, a political science professor at Fayetteville State University.

Bangura and his colleagues have produced a book that seeks to correct the misinformation that “some African rulers and merchants were complicit in the [slave] trade” (p. vii).

Dorothy V. Smith, Professor emerita
Dillard University New Orleans
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