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Britain, Slavery, and the Problem with 'Decolonisation'

Monday, 30 November 2020 - 9:00am

Nigel Biggar has published two essays that bring to a reader's attention a history of slavery and the British response that calls into question the narratives of racial discord and need for reparations that decolonisation movements (i.e., Rhodes Must Fall and Black Lives Matter) proffer. Biggar outlines a vast history of slavery while highlighting anti-slavery movements, which too were not without controversy and compromise. Yet the complex picture Biggar draws for his reader challenges content-thin readings of history. He thus argues "the problem with the assumption that underlies the call for ‘decolonisation’ is that it requires amnesia about everything since 1787. It requires us to overlook how widely popular in Britain was the cause of abolition from the closing decades of the eighteenth century onward." Biggar, therefore, reminds his reader, "Between the slave-trade and slavery of the eighteenth century and the present lies 150 years of imperial penance in the form of costly humanitarian endeavour to liberate slaves around the globe." 

Read a brief treatment of Biggar's attention to "Britain's slave trade and the problem with 'decolonisation'" (29 November 2020, The Spectatorhere

For his extensive discussion on the subject, read "Britain, slavery, and anti-slavery" (26 November 2020, Briefings for Britain) here.


Photo by British Library on Unsplash