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William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner Hardcover – June 16, 2008

5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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From Booklist

The former leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, Hague has lately immersed himself in biography writing. As with William Pitt the Younger (2005), this depiction of William Wilberforce recurs regularly to the political arena of the House of Commons. Pitt and Wilberforce were friends and precocious members, both entering the Commons in their early twenties, but Wilberforce’s talents lay not, as Hague describes, in ministerial leadership. Sociable, eloquent, but indolent, Wilberforce experienced an evangelical conversion around 1786 that expelled the laziness from his character without compromising his geniality. Dedicating his political life to moral causes, Wilberforce decided on two: “the reformation of manners,” as he confided to his diary, and the abolition of African slavery. Wilberforce’s campaign against vice had scant historical effect, but that against slavery in British realms arguably prodded the Western world toward abolition. Why Wilberforce’s effort (trade in slaves was banned in 1807; abolition occurred in 1834) followed a tortuous path becomes understandable as Hague explains the parliamentary practicalities that Wilberforce faced. Incorporating Wilberforce’s domestic life, Hague’s effort is a well-rounded portrait of the pioneering British abolitionist. --Gilbert Taylor


PRAISE FOR William Pitt the Younger

"Mr. Hague covers Pitt's career with elegance and panache . . . [He] has written a very fine biography of this immensely important figure in British history."—Wall Street Journal

"William Hague's book is a model of orderly exposition and narration . . . Anyone really interested in British history or in politics ought to read it."—Frank Wilson, Philadelphia Inquirer

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (June 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151012679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151012671
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #463,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. D. Weimer on August 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
William Wilberforce was the ideal political reformer. He brought together an amazing combination of strengths: personal wealth, a friendly personality, good connections, moral seriousness, rhetorical skill, a sincere faith, a practical mind, and a bulldog's tenacity.

William Hague does an excellent job highlighting all of these qualities. Hague may be the perfect author to write such a book. He is an experienced politician, having held many positions in the British government since 1989, including leader of the Conservative Party.

Although Hague clearly appreciates Wilberforce's great political skill, a large portion of his book focuses on Wilberforce's moral and spiritual struggles, which propelled him forward into a life of effective service. Almost single-handedly, he brought moral concerns into the mainstream of British politics. Best known is his successful campaign to end the British slave trade. Less well known were his many rational reforms of the criminal laws, eliminating many forms of cruel and disproportionate punishment.

Hague shows that Wilberforce used great wisdom in integrating his Christian beliefs with his political efforts. He was not ashamed of his faith, but he used a light touch in his personal relations, including his lifelong friendship with William Pitt the Younger. Wilberforce maintained that strong friendship, even though Pitt did not share his Evangelical faith, by focusing on their common interests and common love of politics.
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Format: Hardcover
I was surprised by how interesting and enjoyable this book was - I was concerned that over 500 pages devoted to the life of a long-dead Evangelical English parliamentarian would be very dry. However, Hague does a fine job both capturing Wilberforce's life as well as providing the proper context of late 18th century / early 19th century England.

I think the reason it appealed to me in particular was that it filled in a number of gaps in my knowledge of the time. I was familiar with the military side of the Napoleonic wars (and have read all the Hornblower and Aubrey/Maturin books) as well as the American perspective on the American Revolution and the War of 1812. This book gave an excellent perspective of the debates and policies of the British government during those tumultuous years and how the country reacted to the major domestic and international developments.

Definitely worth a read.
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Format: Hardcover
Lincoln once said that "everyone should know Wilberforce." (p. 511) William Hague has afforded the present generation the second-best way to get to know Wilberforce; a magnificently written biography of the man. While the most insightful means to "know Wilberforce" is to know his God, in no small measure Hague reveals the God of William Wilberforce by disclosing the man. The man, as it turns out, in his life manifested the efficacy of pure religion put into practice.

The author is no neophyte to historical biography, having previously offered a highly-regarded biography of William Pitt the Younger (Knopf - February 8, 2005 - "[A] first-class work of history; informative, well written and captivating." --Alistair Horne, The Times London). In this his accounting of the life of Wilberforce, Hague informatively, with graceful style, leads the reader to an understanding of why many of his contemporaries regarded him on a par with the greatest statesmen of the age; in the end, he was laid to rest at Westminster Abbey.

William Wilberforce is quite rightly remembered for his untiring efforts to bring about the end of British-sanctioned slave trading in 1807. For that accomplishment alone he should be recalled. However, beyond the accomplishment lies the value of studying the life of one who was unusually devoted to higher principles; in many respects, the life of Wilberforce exhibits that one can have one's vision focused on heavenly values while having one's feet planted within the realities of earthly existence. For those who long for political leadership ennobled by trustworthy character traits, this is a worthy model.
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Format: Hardcover
The first biography that I ever read about William Wilberforce was by John Piper in his Swans are Not Silent series titled "The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce". Prior to reading that book I had never even heard about William Wilberforce. I was very intrigued to read more about this man. I then went and bought Wilberforce's book on a Practical View of Christianity edited by Kevin Belmont and started to read some of it. Some time passed after this and when I heard that the movie about Wilberforce was coming out I thought that I would look at some of the other biographies on him. I have read biography's by Kevin Belmont, Eric Metaxas, Sir Reginald Coupland, Garth Lean, and the book titled "Saints in Politics: The Clapham Sect and the growth of Freedom" by Earnest Marshall Howse. Each biography is like looking through a different window into the world of Wilberforce and his life and I have found them very interesting reading and very revealing into the man and his character and the historical settings and Christian history of the time. I have also been able to download the 5 volume biography by his sons and have only skimmed some of it thus far. My goal is to tackle it at some point as well.

I am about half way through this biography by Hauge on Willberforce. I am presently reading along with Haugue's biography, John Pollock's and will then tackle Robin Furneaux's. I believe one thing that stands out in Hauge's biography is a very good understanding and telling of the historical goings on of the time better than any of the other biographys that I have read thus far.
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