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Bury the Chains

Bury the Chains

Eighteenth-century Britain dominated the transatlantic slave trade. Profits soared, merchants and shipowners built grand mansions and the handful of scattered protesters were regarded as harmless cranks. But in 1787 things began to change. Bury the Chains tells the remarkable story of the great popular crusade that with dramatic swiftness brought the question of slavery to the very heart of British political life.


Operating both inside and outside Parliament, the abolitionists created a movement like nothing ever seen before. At its centre was the fiery organiser Thomas Clarkson, who strode on board slave ships, fought off a group of traders who tried to kill him on a Liverpool pier and rode 35,000 miles on horseback to spread the word. A short five years after he first assembled a group of twelve activists in a London printing shop, more than 300,000 Britons were boycotting slave-grown sugar, anti-slavery committees had sprung up in every major town and city in the British Isles, and the House of Commons passed the first measure limiting the slave trade.


In this monumental new book, Adam Hochschild vividly recreates those turbulent times, bringing to life a host of determined, colourful and eccentric characters. Compelling, disturbing and brilliantly written, this is the definitive account of one of the key moments in Britain’s history.

About the Author

Adam Hochschild

ADAM HOCHSCHILD is a prize-winning author whose most recent book, King Leopold’s Ghost, was awarded the prestigious Duff Cooper Prize in 1999. He teaches writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and in 1997-8 was a Fulbright Lecturer in India.  He lives in San Francisco.