Bury The Chains: The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery

Written by Adam Hochschild
Review by Ann Oughton

In 1787 a small group of men gathered in a London printing shop to discuss how they might be instrumental in abolishing slavery. Using posters, mass mailings and lapel pins, they managed to get their message across to the British public, succeeding in a countrywide boycott of the main slave-produced commodity – sugar. Although the House of Commons passed the first law banning the trade in slaves in 1792, it would be several years before it took effect, and the owning of slaves continued until the 1830s.

The players in the unfolding drama included John Newton, a former slave ship captain who wrote Amazing Grace, Thomas Clarkson who devoted his life to the cause, and the only survivor of that printing shop meeting who lived to see the whip and chains formally buried in Jamaica.

Once again Hochschild demonstrates absolute mastery of his subject. Not only is this account brilliantly researched, it is written with style and verve by a born storyteller.