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Euro-American abolitionism in the African mirror

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There is an extensive literature on Euro-American abolitionism, its causes and consequences, its merits and shortcomings. By contrast, little has been written about African abolitionism. The history of African emancipation is seen as structured primarily by the legal stages of European abolitionism. But what do we find if we try to write a history of African anti-slavery that prioritizes African ideas, voices, and political struggles? When, how, and why did Africans begin to challenge the legitimacy of slavery as an institution? How did Africans relate to European and American abolitionism? Who were the main ideologues of African abolitionism, and what were their networks and strategies? How do their approaches compare to those of Euro-American abolitionism? These questions are at the heart of a five-year ERC Advanced Research Project that started on 1 October 2020. At this talk, I will discuss some preliminary findings and ideas, and ask how (if at all) a better understanding of African abolitionism could modify our interpretation of global abolitionism.

This talk is part of the Core Seminar in Economic and Social History series.

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