Slavery and the slavery business have cast a long shadow over British history. In 1833, abolition was heralded as evidence of Britain's claim to be themodern global power, its commitment to representative government in Britain, free labour, the rule of law, and a benevolent imperial mission all aspects of a national identity rooted in notions of freedom and liberty. Yet much is still unknown about the significance of the slavery, slave-ownership and emancipation in the formation of modern imperial Britain. This essays in this book explore fundamental issues including the economic impact of slavery and slave-ownership, the varied forms of labour deployed in the imperial world, including hired slaves and indentured labourers, the development of the C19th imperial state, slavery and public and family history, and contemporary debates about reparations. The contributors, drawn from Britain, the Caribbean and Mauritius, include some of the most distinguished writers in the field: Clare Anderson, Robin Blackburn, Heather Cateau, Mary Chamberlain, Chris Evans, Pat Hudson, Richard Huzzey, Zoë Laidlaw, Alison Light, Anita Rupprecht, Verene A. Shepherd, Andrea Stuart and Vijaya Teelock. The impact of slavery and slave-ownership is once again becoming a major area of historical and contemporary concern: this book makes a vital contribution to the subject.
The introduction frames the contributions on the importance of slavery and slave-ownership in the re-making of the British imperial world after abolition in 1833 by posing a number of key questions: What was the character of the British imperial state in the wake of 1833?; What happened to the merchants and planters who had been central to the West Indian economy and to the culture they had elaborated?; What new forms of unfree labour emerged across the British Empire?; How can academic historians engage with the museums, family and local historians who have made critical contributions to the understanding of slavery and its legacies?; What are the issues around history, reparations and restitution in the present?