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The Slave Trade Debate: Contemporary Writings For and Against




John Pinfold


At the height of the debate about the slave trade and its abolition in the 1780s and ’90s, each side issued pamphlets in support of its position. This publication reproduces a selection of representative pamphlets encompassing the arguments put forward by each side. The pamphlets discuss many of the issues including humanitarianism and the Rights of Man, the economic well-being of Britain’s colonial territories in the aftermath of the loss of the American colonies, the state of the British merchant marine and the Royal Navy, the condition of the poor in England, and, not least, the economic and moral condition of the slaves themselves, not only in the West Indies but also in Africa. Both sides drew freely on scriptural sources to support their case, thus providing a fascinating sidelight on theological debate of the time.The book includes pamphlets written by the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, and by Sir John Gladstone (father of the Prime Minister) in support of the trade, and sets these against the leading abolitionists such as Wilberforce. It also includes a transcript of part of the unpublished journal of James Ramsay, a well-known abolitionist, in which he provides model answers for abolitionists asked to testify before a committee of enquiry.The introduction explains the background to each pamphlet and sets them in their collective historical and social context.Illustrated by the well-known engraving of the slaver Brookes, and by plans of Cape Coast slave castles, this book is a culturally fascinating read and will become a valuable source-book for students and scholars alike.

Number of pages


Place published



Bodleian Library


Slave Trade, Colonialism

Content types

Past policies

Target groups

Public awareness

Geographical focuses

Africa - North , Africa - Subsaharian, South Africa, Other Caribbean States, United Kingdom, Regional relevance, Regional relevance, Kenya, and Africa

Spheres of activity

Anthropology, Cultural and ethnic studies, Geography, History, Law, and Demography