• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Attempt an assessment of the part played by William Wilberforce in the abolition of slavery

Extracts from this document...


By the early 1700's Britain's position as the worlds foremost commercial power had become well established. One "...profitable and necessary branch of commerce" (V:pg.63) which had contributed to the achievement of this rank, was that of slave trading. During this period England's leadership of the trade was viewed as "...a symbol of the country's naval and commercial greatness"(V: pg.60) but, as the century continued and the Age of Enlightenment dawned, opinion radically altered. Growing numbers of British peoples now denounced slavery as the "...most monstrous outrage." (V: pg.60) and called for its abolition. At the forefront of the abolition movement was the independent Member of Parliament for Hull, William Wilberforce. He was a devout Evangelical, who used his political position as "...a platform for his religious views" (V: pg.54) and took up the cause of the Negro slaves "...when he was in his twenties and received the news of their freedom on his deathbed at the age of seventy-three."(V: pg.i) In order to assess the role of William Wilberforce in the abolition of slavery it is necessary to consider both the individual himself and the era in which he lived. ...read more.


In order to allow preparation for eventual emancipation and to improve the chances of success, the abolitionists concentrated on eliminating the business of trading in slaves which, they believed, would ultimately lead to the eradication of slavery as a whole.(II: pg.72) Wilberforce himself "...was heir to a hundred years of successful trading." (V: pg.3) and representative of the growing bourgeoisie who held power in Britain. He, like them, had gained his wealth and position through commerce. Wilberforce's use of economic argument, regarding the financial unsoundness of the slave trade, was therefore one which, in this era of industry and profit making, was assured of evoking discussion amongst those involved in the trade. The resources gained from slavery, combined with fears that its abolition would prove detrimental to British supremacy and advantageous to the French, were viewed as an essential and integral part of the continued success of the British Empire. Despite Wilberforce's campaign, "Commerce clinked its purse" (III: pg.211) and he lost the first of many parliamentary votes on abolition. Although grieved by this defeat Wilberforce continued to devote his immense talents to achieving abolition. He was renowned for his thoroughness in preparing his documentation and invested considerable effort "...analysing, checking and exposing opponent's evidence and preparing their own."(V: pg.93). ...read more.


(IX: pg.45). The British Parliament was further influenced by the numbers of countries that had already abolished the slave trade. Among these were the Danish, Dutch, American's and French. (VII: pg.247) Despite international condemnation of the slave trade, the decision taken by Britain in 1833 to abolish slavery was one of the "...great moments of human history" (V: pg.255) There were many able and enlightened men and women involved in the campaign for the abolition of slavery and no one individual can claim sole responsibility for its eventual success. William Wilberforce though, must surely be attributed with recognition considering his part in the abolition of the slave trade without which emancipation of the slaves would have been unthinkable. Wilberforce's role was extremely important and his religious resolve, eloquence and intelligence enabled him to influence the British public as well as many of the most powerful members of society. The abolition of slavery however, was eventually brought about as a result of numerous and complex inter-related factors. As stated by Patrick Richardson it was an amalgamation of changes in "Economic and political thought, strategic thinking, humanitarian attitudes and even cultural values" which brought about the demise of this "... most monstrous evil." (V; pg. 255). ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level UK, European & Global Economics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level UK, European & Global Economics essays

  1. Where does the World Trade Organisation fit in the overall scheme of international public ...

    The price of EU approval of the text was the prefatory insertion of "without prejudging the outcome of the negotiations". This arguably dilutes the commitment to abolish export subsidies, but was necessary in order to avert outright failure in Doha.

  2. Carbon Credit Trading

    trading and implementation of carbon reducing technology go hand-in-hand (Carbon Monetization, 2009). The idea behind this alternative is for Heinz to make provisions for the inevitable implementation of a carbon reduction scheme and give Heinz U.S. a competitive advantage in the future.

  1. By the mid nineteenth century, Britain had been the world's strongest economic power for ...

    role of the entrepreneur as the major underlying cause of Britain's industrial decline. The principal argument came in the Aug. 1964 issue of the Economic History Review. This article was written by Derek H. Aldcroft and was entitled 'The Entrepreneur and the British Economy 1870-1914'.

  2. Why was slavey abolished in the 19th century?

    An example of when financial criteria affected British slavery was when sugar markets in Brazil and Cuba began to make an improved and cheaper sugar cane, there was no need for the slave routes to the West Indies' sugar markets to be continued which led them to be reduced.

  1. The Laughing Falcon by William Deverell - review

    The term "Greater China" was termed by former Communist Party Secretary, Zhao Ziyang, as reunified China that included Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China. It merged into one independent called the "MegaChina". In 1997, Hong Kong and Mainland China were then united again.

  2. How is Pinney Linked with Slavery?

    This proves he had plantations but not slaves. Pinney's attitude to slaves portrays he had them on his plantations. Though Pinney owned slaves he treated the slaves fairly compared to other merchants. He was sympathetic towards them and in 1762 he wrote: - "I hope it unnecessary to recommend to

  1. Explain these words/ phrases: Spheres of Influence

    Alliances therefore is not about ideology but of simple common sense, they would continually shift to maintain the balance of power. Then a balance will be maintained to prevent wars. Balance of power politics was a factor why the U.S.

  2. Why did it take until 1833 for the British government to illegalise the transatlantic ...

    The final strand o0f the voyage; the return passage involved the shipment of "colonial produce" to Bristol where the profits from them would be used to finance new transatlantic slave trips. In 1792 the Prime Minister William Pitt declared the transatlantic slave trade as an "incurable injustice" (6), so the

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work