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Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism (Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture) Paperback – March 27, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (March 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807856983
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807856987
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #259,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Brown's meticulous and lucid analysis of the self-regarding, self-interested, and self-validating impulse in British abolitionism presents a much more nuanced and compelling argument than we have seen before."--New West Indian Guide


"Brown's Moral Capital is remarkable in . . . managing to say something genuinely new about a subject that has been discussed and written about for two centuries; and that . . . is no small achievement."--Times Literary Supplement


"A crucial intervention in our understanding of the international pressures that led to . . . the term 'British anti-slavery'. . . . . This meditation on the vastly complex social and iintellectual origins of British anti-slavery activism takes us back to basics, and asks radical questions that historians of the Atlantic diaspora will now need to ponder."-American Historical Review


"A provocative rereading of the origins of late eighteenth-century British antislavery. Beautifully written and elegantly paced. . . . [Brown's] is an outstanding contribution to an enormous and critical historiography."--Journal of American History
"An impressive array of primary sources. . . . Capturing the complexity of abolitionism's development . . . A significant study that sheds new light."--The Journal of Religion


"Elegant and persuasive. . . . Effectively reframe[s] our traditional portraits of antislavery as humanitarian reform more generally at the turn of the eighteenth century."--William and Mary Quarterly


"A comprehensive and encyclopedic analysis of early British abolitionism that will be standard reading for all interested in the subject."--Journal of the Early Republic


"This is a carefully crafted study that will be widely appreciated by historians of slavery, imperial history, the American Revolution and eighteenth-century British domestic politics."--Patterns of Prejudice


"A major reassessment of a movement that has usually been studied from a much more limited perspective."--Itinerario


"In what is likely to become a landmark study in the history of British abolitionism, Brown provides a nuanced and compelling interpretation of its roots. . . . This outstanding and timely study will have a broad impact. Essential."--Choice

Book Description

"A fascinating study of a crucial episode in Atlantic history. . . . Brown adds a vital new dimension to the story of abolitionism."--Robin Blackburn, New School for Social Research

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By hmf22 on December 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
Moral Capital is a powerful and intricate exploration of the ideas and motives that underlay the British anti-slavery movement. Brown begins by positing that moral disapproval alone is not sufficient to end a practice like slavery-- the issue must acquire weight in the public mind and must attract individuals who are willing to devote time, energy, and creativity to creating a concrete plan to end it. He illuminates the tangled motives of the early abolitionists; some sought to help the British empire adjust to a new geopolitical reality in the wake of American independence, while the vigorous evangelical wing of the movement sought to save souls. Brown suggests that, had the American Revolution not occurred, emancipation might have been more difficult to achieve-- not because the moral will wasn't there, but because ending slavery would have been seen as a politically divisive move in a fragile empire.

As another reviewer noted, this is a long, dense book, laden with historiographical musings, and it can be slow going. It is more suitable for scholars than for popular readers. But if you persevere through all 462 pages, your patience will be rewarded with valuable insights not just into the history of British anti-slavery, but also into the structural dynamics of moral movements in general.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the most interesting studies of Britain's abolitionists that I have read. I found it to be highly readable and written at a level that does not require doctorate in the subject to understand it.

The general thrust is that the American Revolution and the general crisis surrounding it gave many would-be reformers in Britain to pause and take stock. This process led to abolitionism. Sure, people might take jabs at some of the author's assumption and conclusion, but what makes this book so great is that it provokes discussion in a way that too few books do. The author doesn't hide behind a bunch of jargon or detailed historiography. He makes a bold statement and then does his best to support it. More history should be written this way.
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By P. Stern on May 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An absorbing and lucidly written analysis of the origins of abolitionism. The focus on the role of the American Revolution was new to me, and persuasive. Brown has mastered an enormous volume of primary and secondary literature on early abolitionism, and it is presented in a way that is easy to read. Most interesting is Brown's explanation of the role of contingencies -- personalities, multiple motivations, and the subjective sense of "who we are" -- in the development of social movements premised on moral appeals. The book would have been better if it had been 20% shorter, but one can't ask for much more. I really enjoyed it!
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4 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John L. Graves on February 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a great attempt to understand how the British turned against the enslavement of Africans. It is sad to note that it took a bloody Civil War, the worse conflict involving Americans, to end slavery on these shores.
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6 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Eve B. on March 14, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brown tries to delve into abolitionists' motives. The result is an overly long book full of equivocations. It's a hodge-podge, wherein on one page, he questions the abolitionists' sincerity because they objected to slavery on religious grounds and on another page he admits that they were dedicated to abolition as an end in itself. And so it goes on and on and on....very slowly and with no apparent end, or resolution, in sight.
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