A Short History of Guinea and its impact on early British abolitionism
How did the institution of Atlantic slavery and the African slave trade come under attack in the 1780s? One major contributor to anti-slavery discourse in the early stages of abolitionism was the French-born American Quaker, Anthony Benezet. In 1762, he wrote a pathbreaking book on the history of West Africa, in which he used the writings of proslavery advocates and slave traders to construct a very different, and much more positive, portrait of Africa and African slavery than previously available. In Benezet’s rendering, Africans exemplified a whole range of Quaker virtues, none of which had been previously associated with Africans. This chapter assesses the importance of Benezet on Africa in the development of early humanitarian discourse.
This book examines the shifting relationship between humanitarianism and the expansion, consolidation and postcolonial transformation of the Anglophone world across three centuries. Rather than exploring this relationship within a generalised narrative, an introductory essay sets out its key features throughout the imperial and post-imperial period, before carefully selected chapters explore trade-offs between humane concern and the altered context of colonial and postcolonial realpolitik with case studies distributed between the late eighteenth and late twentieth centuries. Together, the collection enables us to tease out the relationship between British humanitarian concerns and the uneven imagination and application of emancipation; the shifting tensions between ameliorative humanitarianism and assertive human rights; the specificities of humanitarian governance; the shifting locales of humanitarian donors, practitioners and recipients as decolonisation reconfigured imperial relationships; and the overarching question of who Anglo humanitarianism is for.
Three centuries of Anglophone humanitarianism, empire and transnationalism
Written in equal parts by specialists in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Burnard, Lester and Damousi respectively), this foundational chapter tracks the relationship between humanitarian discourse and practice on the one hand, and the rise, expansion and decline of the British Empire on the other, across three centuries. Not only does it set the scene for the case study chapters that follow, establishing the geopolitical context of Anglophone ameliorative governance and intervention across this longue durée; it is the first such targeted examination of this relationship in its own right. It seeks to take up the challenge posed by Skinner and Lester in 2012, to explore ‘the history of humanitarianism … as a fundamental component of imperial relations, a way of bridging trans-imperial, international and transnational approaches’.