‘A very readable book by an accomplished author who handles
narrative, argument and analysis with admirable clarity. The work of
the Society and the zeitgeist which powered it is a remarkable story
and Heartfield’s is a significant contribution to our understanding
of an important strand of British social and intellectual history.’
— Richard Rathbone, Emeritus Professor, SOAS, London;
co-author of African History: A Very Short Introduction
‘This is an excellent book which narrates for the first time, and in fine grain detail, the works, ideals, tensions and shifts of the Anti-Slavery Society –
as the author rightly suggests, the first and longest standing “civil society organisation”. Enthusiastically recommended.’ — Robbie Shilliam, author of The Black Pacific: Anticolonial Struggles and Oceanic Connections
After West Indian slavery was abolished in 1833, the anti-slavery campaign turned to the wider world and the goal of Universal Emancipation. Veteran agitators Joseph Sturge, Lord Brougham and John Scoble launched the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society at a world convention in 1840.
The BFASS pushed for and prepared the 1890 Brussels conference that divided Africa between the European powers, on the grounds of fighting Arab slavers. The Society was torn between its belief in the civilising mission of Europeans, and its brief to protect Africans. Rubber slavery in the Belgian Congo, indentured ‘coolies’ in the Empire, and forced labour in British Africa tested the Society’s goals of civilising the world.
This first comprehensive history of the Society draws on 120 years of anti-slavery publications, like the Anti-Slavery Reporter, to explain its unique status as the first international human rights organisation; and explains the Society’s surprising attitudes to the Confederate secession, the ‘coolies’, and the colonisation of Africa.