Slavery Obscured: The Social History of the Slave Trade in Bristol


Madge Dresser

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Republished to coincide with Abolition 200, Slavery Obscured is a new departure in the growing history of the impact of the Atlantic slave trade. It aims to assess how the slave trade affected the social life and cultural outlook of the citizens of a major English city, and contends that its impact was more profound than has previously been acknowledged. For much of the eighteenth century, Bristol was England’s second city and, between 1730 and 1745, its premier slaving port. Based on original research in archives in Britain and America, Slavery Obscured builds on recent scholarship in the economic history of the slave trade to ask questions about the way slave-derived wealth underpinned the city’s urban development and its growing gentility. How much did Bristol’s Georgian renaissance owe to such wealth? Who were the major players and beneficiaries of the African and West Indian trades? How, in an ever-changing historical environment, were enslaved Africans represented in the city’s press, theatre and political discourse? What do previously unexplored religious, legal and private records tell us about the black presence in Bristol or about the attitudes of white seamen, colonists and merchants towards slavery and race? What role did white women and artisans play in Bristol’s anti-slavery movement? Combining an historical and anthropological approach, Slavery Obscured seeks to shed new light on the contradictory and complex history of an English slaving port and, by so doing, to prompt new ways of looking at British national identity, race and history. PUBLISHED 1 FEBRUARY 2007 234 x 156mm, 256pp ISBN: 978-1-904537-69-4 Paperback

Madge Dresser

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