A Conversation for The Campaign to Abolish Slavery Part Four: Victory and the Continuing Struggle

History is written by the winning side?

Post 1

Edward the Bonobo - Gone.


Amongst all the publicity surrounding the bicentenary, many black commentators have noted that the role of Africans in securing their own freedom has gone unremarked. Sadly, this series of article - good though they are, within limitations - has repeated this whitewash.

Wilberforce and his co-campaigners were undoubtedly towering moral figures of their time, and their role is rightly applauded. Note, however, that it took many years of campaigning until parliament acceded. What finally won parliament over was not so much that minds of the ruling class were altered (after all, many years of explotative, racist colonialism were to follow), but that the Triangular Trade became uneconomic.

And why did it become uneconomic? Because Africans were constantly fighting back. Slave rebellions in the colonies, in Africa and onboard the death ships imposed massive security costs and accounted for a good deal of 'product wastage'. In addition, life for the white colonial overseers was intolerable. British companies could compete far more efficiently with the still slave-dependent United States by building self-sustaining colonies of 'freed' Africans, kept on subsistence wages that would give them sufficient comfort and health to breed at the necessary rate. There were savings in fresh labour from Africa. The colonial product used to buy slaves could fetch a better price in other markets. Brute economics made abolition inevitable. Conveniently, parliamentarians could gain points with the electing class by taking the moral high ground.

For an alternative to the European-Centred view of slavery, run-don't-walk to the classic work by the late Trinidadian Marxist historian and cricket writer, 'CLR James: The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution'

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History is written by the winning side?

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