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The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery (Cambridge Studies in Economic History - Second Series) Hardcover – January 29, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0521115254 ISBN-10: 0521115256 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Economic History - Second Series
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (January 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521115256
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521115254
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,037,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"... well-researched and argued book, and a major contribution to the study of British history and West Indian slavery in the first half of the nineteenth century."
Stanley Engerman, Journal of Economic History

"... well-researched and insightful book ..."
Christopher Clark, American Historical Review

"... Draper's book is a vital reminder not only of the importance of slavery to British social history through the 1830's but also of the impact of slave emancipation as a force for political innovation and reform in British society during the age of abolition."
David Richardson, The Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Draper's book is insightful, engaging, and finely nuanced."
Kevin Grant, Journal of Modern History

"Nicholas Draper's award-winning book is well researched, heavily annotated, and handsomely illustrated."
John David Smith, Canadian Journal of History

"Draper has written an outstandingly good and important work."

"This book is a valuable contribution to emancipation studies, and most appropriate for upper-level undergraduate or graduate-level courses."
The New West Indian Guide

Book Description

Challenging conventional narratives of abolitionist Britain, this book, provides a comprehensive analysis of the extent and importance of absentee slave-ownership and its impact on British society by drawing on the records of the Commissioners of Slave Compensation, who were responsible for distributing compensation to slave-owners when slavery was abolished.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Sceptique500 on July 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
When an Act of Parliament abolished slavery in the Caribbean in 1833, a Compensation Commission was established to administer the distribution of £20 million in compensation to the owners of the over 800'000 slaves. Its records have now been put into a database, allowing the author quantitatively to address the questions of (a) how wide-spread was slave-owning in metropolitan Britain, and (b) who were the slave-owners, (c) how much did they receive. The answers are foregrounded by an analysis of the changing field of discourse around slavery (as it emerges from the official or published records of the debate) in the run-up to the Parliamentary vote, and subsidiarily its impact on the owners' standing in their social networks. Political agreement was a precondition for launching this first subsidized emancipation scheme: "property in men" was both sanctioned and abolished through the same act.

The analysis concludes that slave-owning was more widespread than previously understood, though remaining a minority phenomenon: 5-10% of the relevant population owned slaves. Their geographical distribution in Great Britain is uneven. Rentier-owners and merchants shared more or less equally in the compensation. If Britain's wealth was not derived entirely from slavery, it was part of the wealth of certain sections of British society.

Though a scholarly contribution to, this book is neither a reflection nor a history of emancipation in the British Empire; nor does it contain a political or economic analysis of the Caribbean plantation system, or its viability and that juncture. In Herodotian fashion it lets those who have a voice speak for themselves - in often pointillist and disjoined fashion.
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