'Tremble, Britannia!' : Fear, providence and the abolition of the slave trade, 1758-1807
journal contributionposted on 2014-10-21, 14:08 authored by John R. D. Coffey
Parliament’s abolition of the British Atlantic slave trade in 1807 was celebrated as a national triumph. In Joseph Collyer’s engraving, ‘Britannia Trampling the Emblems of Slavery’, the regal subject stands in glorious array, flanked by Justice and Religion, who points to the Golden Rule. To her right stands a slave-ship; to her left, a bust of Wilberforce and a scroll containing the names of parliamentarians who spoke in favour of abolition.1 A commemorative medal ‘designed and executed by eminent Artists’ also bears an image of Wilberforce, ‘the Friend of Africa’; on the reverse, Britannia sits enthroned, attended by Wisdom and Justice as she commands Commerce to stop the trade.2 Both images suggest that abolition was driven by what Kwame Anthony Appiah calls ‘the honor code’, and by the need to rebuild the nation’s ‘moral capital’.
CitationEnglish Historical Review, 2012, 127 (527), pp. 844-881
Author affiliation/Organisation/COLLEGE OF ARTS, HUMANITIES AND LAW/School of History
- AM (Accepted Manuscript)