SHORTLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL WRITING
A DAILY TELEGRAPH BOOK OF THE YEAR
For two hundred years, the abolition of slavery in Britain has been a cause for self-congratulation – but no longer.
In 1807, Parliament outlawed the slave trade in the British Empire. But for the next 25 years more than 700,000 people remained enslaved, due to the immensely powerful pro-slavery group the ‘West India Interest’.
This ground-breaking history discloses the extent to which the ‘Interest’ were supported by nearly every figure of the British establishment – fighting, not to abolish slavery, but to maintain it for profit. Gripping and unflinching, The Interest is the long-overdue expose of one of Britain’s darkest, most turbulent times.
‘A critical piece of history and a devastating expose’ Shashi Tharoor, author of Inglorious Empire
‘Thoroughly researched and potent’ David Lammy MP
‘Essential reading’ Simon Sebag Montefiore
An outstanding and gripping revelation ... essential reading -- Simon Sebag Montefiore Scintillating ... In twenty brisk, gripping chapters, Taylor charts the course from the foundation of the Anti-Slavery Society in 1823 to the final passage of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833. Part of what makes this a compulsively readable book is his skill in cross-cutting between three groups of protagonists. On one track, we follow the abolitionist campaigners on their lengthy, uphill battle ... This well-known story is reanimated by some brilliant pen-portraits ... A second strand illuminates the fears and bigotries of white British West Indians ... The main focus of the book, however, is on the colonists' powerful domestic allies, the so-called West India Interest ... Taylor paints a vivid picture of their outlook, organisation and superior political connections ... As this timely, sobering book reminds us, British abolition cannot be celebrated as an inevitable or precocious national triumph. It was not the end, but only the beginning -- Fara Dabhoiwala * Guardian * One achievement of Taylor's fascinating book is that, for the first time in a book about abolition, it gives equal weight to the force of pro-slavery ... Taylor's political analysis is first-rate and riveting ... He argues that emancipation was neither inevitable nor altruistic; party politics in Westminster and rebellion from the West Indies played as much a role as moral outrage. Taylor's achievement [is to] show that, thanks to the power of the Interest, being pro-slavery was seen as a respectable, even popular, position in British politics until the day of its demise. Above all, he reminds us of the role of those who have been unsung in this story - of Mary Prince, Samuel Sharpe and Quamina -- Ben Wilson * The Times * A magnificent book ... riveting -- Ian Thomson * Evening Standard * Powerful ... engrossing ... Taylor's potent book shows why slavery took root as an essential part of British national life -- Martin Chilton * Independent *
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