Written by Vladimir Moss



     Perhaps the greatest paradox of nineteenth-century history is the fact that the main power spreading liberalism throughout the world was Great Britain, the power that had, with Russia, defeated the French revolution in its Napoleonic phase, and whose empire, the greatest in history, had come to rule over, if not technically enslave, hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Let us see how the British tried to reconcile liberalism with imperialism…

     The greatest affront to the new liberal creed of “progressive” humanity was slavery; and as the nineteenth century progressed, this was the issue that more than any other threatened to divide the Great Powers between and within themselves. So they were forced to discuss it in the intervals when they were not combatting some revolutionary outbreak (of which there were many in this period). Thus at the Vienna Congress in 1815, they had agreed a common statement, as Bernard Simms writes, “that the slave trade was repugnant to the principles of humanity and universal morality. For the moment this was mere aspiration, but the potentially huge international ramifications of the issue were already clear…”[1] These revolved around the fact that while the victors of 1815 had declared themselves against slavery, in the eyes of many liberals and revolutionaries the monarchical regimes of Russia, Prussia and Austria kept the peasants and subject nations of their empires in virtual slavery, or at any rate serfdom. This gave a propaganda advantage to the only victor nation that had – officially, if not yet de facto in all her dominions - abolished slavery and serfdom, Britain, and it allowed the British, while formally belonging to the monarchical, anti-revolutionary Holy Alliance, to interfere on the side of liberals and revolutionaries in such places as Spain and Italy. Of course, it may plausibly be argued that the condition of industrial workers in Britain, as of many millions of subjects in the British empire, was little short of slavery; but the propaganda advantage remained, and was used vigorously by the British.

     Before we examine how the British played the slavery card, let us look at how and why slavery was introduced into the West… Slavery, the slave trade and forced labour had been commonly practiced among the Arab Muslims and pagans of Africa since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs.[2] But the emphasis now was on the practice of Christian nations.

     According to Yuval Noah Harari, “At the end of the Middle Ages, slavery was almost unknown in Christian Europe. During the early modern period, the rise of European capitalism went hand in hand with the rise of the Atlantic slave trade. Unrestrained market forces, rather than tyrannical kings or racist ideologues, were responsible for this calamity.

    “When the Europeans conquered America, they opened gold and silver mines and established sugar, tobacco and cotton plantations. These mines and plantations became the mainstay of American production and export. The sugar plantations were particularly important. In the Middle Ages, sugar was a rare luxury in Europe. It was imported from the Middle East at prohibitive prices and used sparingly as a secret ingredient in delicacies and snake-oil medicines. After large sugar plantations were established in America, ever-increasing amounts of sugar began to reach Europe. The price of sugar dropped and Europe developed an insatiable sweet tooth. Entrepreneurs met this need by producing large quantities of sweets: cakes, cookies, chocolate, candy, and sweetened beverages such as cocoa, coffee and tea. The annual sugar intake of the average Englishman rose from near zero in the early seventeenth century to around eight kilograms in the early nineteenth century.

     “However, growing cane and extracting the sugar was a labour-intensive business. Few people wanted to work long hours in malaria-infested sugar fields under a tropical sun. Contract labourers would have produced a commodity too expensive for mass consumption. Sensitive to market forces, and greedy for profits and economic growth, European plantation owners switched to slaves.

     “From the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, about 10 million African slaves were imported to America. About 70 per cent of them worked on the sugar plantations. Labour conditions were abominable. Most slaves lived a short and miserable life, and millions more died during wars waged to capture slaves or during the long voyage from inner Africa to the shores of America. All this so that Europeans could enjoy their sweet tea and candy – and sugar barons could enjoy huge profits.

     “The slave trade was not controlled by any state or government. It was a purely economic enterprise, organized and financed by the free market according to the laws of supply and demand. Private slave-trading companies sold shares on the Amsterdam, London and Paris stock exchanges. Middle-class Europeans looking for a good investment bought these shares. Relying on this money, the companies bought ships, hired sailors and soldiers, purchased slaves in Africa and transported them to America. There they sold the slaves to the plantation owners, using the proceeds to purchase plantation products such as sugar, cocoa, coffee, tobacco, cotton and rum. They returned to Europe, sold the sugar and cotton for a good price, and then sailed to Africa to begin another round. The shareholders were very pleased with this arrangement. Throughout the eighteenth century the yield on slave-trade investments was about 6 per cent a year – they were extremely profitable, as any modern consultant would be quick to admit.

     “… The African slave trade did not stem from racist hatred towards Africans. The individuals who bought the slaves, the brokers who sold them, and the managers of the slave-trade companies rarely thought about the Africans. Nor did the owners of the sugar plantations. Many owners lived far from their plantations, and the only information they demanded were neat ledgers of profits and losses…”[3]

     “The British,” writes Robert Tombs, “were by far the largest shippers, carrying over 3 million people between 1660 and 1807, when Parliament banned the trade; the French, and the Portuguese in Brazil were the biggest customers. African rulers were eager suppliers. The trade expanded, reaching an all-time peak in the 1780s, when British ships were transporting about 120 Africans per day. Sugar flowed out and imports flooded back: linen from Ireland and Scotland, fish from Newfoundland, timber and rum from New England, and manufactured goods from England. This was the notorious ‘triangular trade’: carrying manufactured goods to Africa in exchange for slaves, sold in the Caribbean to purchase sugar for Europe. By 1780 Liverpool was shipping one-third of Manchester’s total cloth exports to Africa. Britain and France were prepared to make unlimited efforts to seize and hold sugar islands, principally Jamaica for the British and Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) for the French. Tens of thousands of troops were repeatedly sacrificed to tropical diseases: officers resigned and men deserted when ordered there. But as George III put it to one of his ministers in 1779, ‘Our islands must be defended even at a risk of the invasion of this island’ – Britain itself.”[4]

     However, consciences began to stir, and slavery was eventually abolished in one of the earliest and most remarkable – but also most peaceful - manifestations of “people power”…

     In the early modern period, writes Henry Kissinger, “the West expanded with the familiar hallmarks of colonialism – avariciousness, cultural chauvinism, lust for glory. But it is also true that its better elements tried to lead a kind of global tutorial in an intellectual method that encouraged skepticism and a body of political and diplomatic practices including democracy. It all but ensured that, after long periods of subjugation, the colonized peoples would eventually demand – and achieve - self-determination. Even during their most brutal depredations, the expansionist powers put forth, especially in Britain, a vision that at some point conquered peoples would begin to participate in the fruits of a common global system…”[5]

     Since the anti-slavery movement was all about freedom and equality, one would have expected the revolutionary French to take the lead in it. But the French under Napoleon chose rather to enforce slavery in the Caribbean and attempt to conquer the whole of Europe from Spain to Russia. It was the anti-revolutionary British who initiated this most liberal of causes rather than the revolutionary French.

     “Gradually in the 18th century an anti-slavery lobby built up in Europe, notably in Britain, the superpower of the seas. In 1772 Lord Mansfield, a judge, ruled that a runaway slave there could not be forced back by his master to the West Indies. The ruling was interpreted (questionably, but this was the effect) as confirming that there could be no slavery in Britain.” [6]

     Then, “in late May 1787, a group of parliamentarians, doctors, clergymen and others met in London to form the ‘Committee of the Society for the purpose of effecting the abolition of the Slave Trade’. Its supporters were driven by an often religiously inspired sense of humanitarian outrage at the whole concept of slavery, and especially the horrors of the ‘middle passage’, the transportation across the Atlantic. In mid-April 1791, William Wilberforce’s parliamentary bill demanding the abolition of the slave trade failed, but put the issue firmly on the political agenda. The slaves, of course, were not passive recipients of western benevolence. In August 1791 a major counter-revolutionary revolt broke out in the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue led by plantation slaves outraged not only by the Revolution’s continued toleration of slavery and its failure to extend the rights of man to gens de couleur but also by its treatment of the king and revealed religion. Their leaders regarded themselves as African tribal chiefs rather than representatives of the people. Left to their own devices the revolting slaves would probably have set up a political system similar to the traditional slave-owning African kingdoms from they had originally come; they regularly sold black captives to the Spanish and British. The revolt was a major headache for the European powers, especially Britain and Spain, who drew much of their revenue, and thus their European leverage, from slave plantations in the Caribbean, and the Americans, who feared that the example of Haiti would inflame the black population of the Southern states. The relationship between slavery and the international balance was thus very close…”[7]

     Thus James Walvin writes: “The emergence of the independent black republic of Haiti from the wreckage of plantation slavery in St. Domingue sent shock waves throughout the Americas. It also sent refugees (white and black) fleeing to other islands, especially to neighbouring Jamaica, and to North America, with terrifying tales of what had happened. Defenders of the slave trade (and slavery) felt vindicated. Here was living proof of all their warnings: if you tamper with the slave system, catastrophe would inevitably follow. It was a powerful blow against British abolition [the movement for which had been building up for over fifty years] and it was reinforced by subsequent military disasters.

     “St. Domingue was a temptation to the British. It was a fruitful colony whose sugar and coffee threatened to displace British Caribbean produce on world markets. For William Pitt, the opportunity to seize St. Domingue, and to add it to Britain’s necklace of Caribbean possessions, proved too good to resist. But Pitt’s plans took little notice of Haitian leader and former slave Toussaint L’Ouverture’s rebellious slaves on the island or of tropical disease, and the British invading force was soon overwhelmed. The loss of life was horrendous and the whole endeavour proved a military debacle whose significance was camouflaged by being so distant from the metropolis. Pitt’s aims of augmenting Britain’s slave possessions ended in the deaths of more than 40,000 men…”[8]

     In 1799, the French tried to take back the colony. In 1802 Napoleon was proclaiming: “Never will the French Nation give chains to men whom it has once recognized as free.”[9] But in the same year his forces tried to reintroduce slavery, only to be defeated by black soldiers singing the Marseillaise...[10] However, more than 100,000 slaves died in many barbarous ways.[11]

     Then, in the next year, as Joanna Bourke writes, “Haitians waged the first successful anti-colonial revolution, to found the first black republic. Their armed struggle won them a nation to call their own at colossal cost. The fury of the entire Western world turned against the new nation, ostracizing them and even insisting that former slaves pay compensation to their owners. Well into the twentieth century, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere was paying this financial debt to one of the world’s strongest economies, France.”[12]

     The British, meanwhile, while continuing to justify their empire (although there were plenty of critics both at home and abroad), had really bitten the anti-slavery bullet. In 1807 parliament banned the slave trade. However, slavery itself was not banned in the British Empire until 1833, and did not end in the British Caribbean until 1838.[13] “When in 1814,” writes Tombs, “Castlereagh successfully pressed the French to agree to abolish their slave trade in five years’ time, this delay was denounced as the ‘death warrant of a multitude of innocent victims’ and a huge national campaign was organized, claiming 750,000 supporters. Wellington tried to renegotiate the treaty, and the government put pressure on its allies Spain and Portugal, the main slave-buying nations, to stop the trade. Castlereagh wrote: ‘You must really press the Spanish.. there is hardly a village that has not met and petitioned.’ London even asked the Pope for support. Castlereagh persuaded the reluctant Great Powers to attach to the Treaty of Vienna (1815) a condemnation of the slave trade – the first such ‘human rights’ declaration in a major international treaty. This began a long effort to end slaving, against the resistance of the slave-trading and slave-holding nations and their African suppliers.

     “Campaigning peaked in 1833 with more than 5,000 petitions containing nearly 1.5 million signatures. One, more than a mile long, was signed and sewn together by women, who played an unprecedented part in the campaign, among them Elizabeth Heyrick, author of Immediate, Not Gradual Abolition  (1824). Parliament responded in 1834 by emancipating 800,000 slaves in the empire, paying a huge £20m in compensation to the owners – equal to a third of the state budget – and requiring a four-year ‘apprenticeship’ by slaves. This was thus a compromise measure, but still its anniversary was publicly celebrated by American abolitionists as a great achievement. In 1843 British subjects were forbidden to own slaves anywhere else in the world. The abolition of slavery in the empire in practice applied to slave ownership by whites.”[14]

     In South Africa, the British came up against the Boers on this issue; for the Boers were particularly oppressive slave-owners, who were “outraged that black people were ‘placed on an equal footing with Christians, contrary to the laws of God’.”[15] The problem began after a war with the Xhosa to the east of Cape Colony, when the British, as Evans writes, “withdrew and left the Xhosa with their land. This did not go down well, especially with the Dutch-descended Boer farmers, who bitterly resented the abolition of slavery by the British government in 1834 and were outraged by the minimal scale of the compensation paid to them. Some 5,000 Boer farmers expressed their lack of confidence in the British Empire by migrating northwards between 1835 and 1837 in the ‘Great Trek.’”[16]

     The British saw themselves as the champions of liberty everywhere, and did not care much if their increasingly muscular interventions on behalf of liberty, wherever it might be, offended their monarchical and serf-owning allies, Russia, Prussia and Austria.

     “The Russians, for their part,” writes Simms, “saw Austria and Prussia as a counter-revolutionary dam or breakwater which would halt, or at least slow down, subversive currents before they reached Poland, and ultimately Russia itself. It was with this in mind that the tsar exerted pressure on Berlin to disavow ministers who wanted to cooperate with liberal nationalism. He got his way after the death of Motz and the replacement of Bernstorff by the conservative Friedrich Ancillon as foreign minister in the early 1830s. In 1833, the three eastern powers came together at Münchengrätz, to agree a joint policy of stability on conservative principles in central Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Two years later, Berlin and St. Petersburg advertised their solidarity by holding joint manoeuvres in Poland. The counter-revolution was closing ranks across Europe.

     “In the west, liberal and constitutionalist powers were quick to pick up the gauntlet. British foreign policy, in particular, manifested an emancipatory and at times almost messianic streak. This reflected a strong sense that European peace and Britain’s own security depended, as the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, put it, on the ‘maint[enance] of the liberties and independence of all other nations’. On his reading, the survival of freedom in Britain required its defence throughout Europe: constitutional states were thus her ‘natural allies’. There was also a broader feeling that Britain should, as Palmerston argued in August 1832, ‘interfer[e] by friendly counsel and advice’, in order to ‘maintain the liberties and independence of all other nations’ and thus to ‘throw her moral weight into the scale of any people who are spontaneously striving for… rational gov[ernmen]t, and to extend as far and as fast as possible civilization all over the world’. In other words, Britain would not ‘interfere’ in the internal affairs of other countries, or impose her values on unwilling populations, but she pledged her support to those who were willing to take the initiative – who were ‘spontaneously striving’ – to claim their liberal birthright.

     “Globally, the main battlefront was the international slave trade, and, increasingly, the institution of slavery itself. In 1833, slavery was finally abolished throughout the British Empire, which led a year later to the establishment of a French abolitionist society. A cross-Channel Franco-British agitation against the slave trade now began, and a joint governmental programme for its eradication became a real possibility. This cleared the way for a more robust policy against the international slave trade, which the Royal Navy had been battling with varying success since 1807. The newly independent Central and South American states had just abolished slavery, while Britain forced Madrid to give up the legal importation of slaves in 1820, and was increasing the pressure on Spain to abolish slavery altogether in her only remaining large colony of Cuba. In 1835, London and Madrid concluded a treaty to limit the slave trade; for the moment this agreement was honoured on the Spanish side, but it was a further step in the international de-legitimation of the trade. The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society was founded in 1838, and two years later the World Anti-Slavery Convention took place in London. Tensions with Portugal, whose ships still carried the lucrative human cargo to Brazil, rose…”[17]

     “Even when other states agreed to outlaw slave trafficking,” continues Tombs, “- sometimes (as with Spain and Portugal) with compensation paid by Britain – they commonly winked at evasion. So the Royal Navy placed a permanent squadron from 1808 to 1870, at times equal to a sixth of its ships, to try to intercept slavers off West Africa. It was based at Freetown, the capital of the colony for freed slaves at Sierra Leone, which had the first African Anglican bishop, Samuel Crowther, rescued as a boy from a slave ship by the Royal Navy. Patrolling was a thankless and grueling effort, exposing crews to yellow fever, hardship and even personal legal liability for damages; it also cost a large amount of taxpayers’ money. France and the United States refused to allow the Royal Navy to search ships flying their flags. There was continual diplomatic friction with slave-trading states. British officials there were often threatened with violence. During the 1830s and 1840s several American ships forced by bad weather into British colonial territory had the slaves they were carrying released. In 1839 in the famous case of the slave ship Amistad, when captives rebelled and killed the captain, British testimony proving illegal action by American officials helped to secure their freedom. A serious dispute with the United States occurred in 1841 when American slaves on the ship Creole, being taken from Virginia to be sold in New Orleans, seized the ship and killed a slave-trader. They were given asylum in the British-ruled Bahamas, where they were acquitted of any crime and declared free.

     “Britain signed forty-five treaties with African rulers to stop the traffic at source. They were very reluctant to give it up, even threatening to kill all their slaves if they were prevented from selling them. In several cases, Britain paid them to abandon the traffic. Abolitionists urged that Britain should maintain a territorial preserve in West Africa, to combat illegal trafficking and promote legitimate commerce, such as palm oil, to wean African rulers and Liverpool merchants from slaving and towards soap manufacture – a good example of cleanliness being next to godliness. By 1830 palm oil exports were worth more than the slave trade. But the trade continued, and the Royal Navy adopted more aggressive tactics, including blocking rivers and destroying slave pens on shore, even when these were foreign property. In 1861 it occupied Lagos, deposing the ruler who refused to stop the trade, and thus blocked one of the main slave routes. Over sixty years the navy captured hundreds of slave ships off the African coast and freed some 160,000 captives. As one recalled it: ‘They took off all the fetters from our feet and threw them into the water, and they gave us clothes that we might cover our nakedness, they opened the water casks, that we might drink water to the full, and we also ate food, till we had enough.’ Several hundred thousand more were prevented from being shipped from Africa by naval and diplomatic pressure.

     “Palmerston, as Foreign Secretary, was prepared to put pressure on slave-owners too, In 1839 he simply ordered the seizure of Portugueses slave ships, and in 1845 his successor, Lord Aberdeen, declared Brazilian slave ships to be pirates, and 400 were seized in five years. In 1850 the Royal Navy even forcibly entered Brazilian ports to seize or destroy hundreds of slave ships – decisive in forcing Brazil, the biggest slave-buyer of all, toe end of the largest forced emigrations in history. Palmerston said this had given him his ‘greatest and purest pleasure’. Cuba, supplied by fast United States ships, came under similar pressure. But American ships were treated more cautiously, as searches of suspected slave ships carrying the Stars and Stripes caused threats of war from Washington. As Palmerston expostulated, ‘every slave trading Pirate’ could escape by simply hoisting ‘a piece of Bunting with the United States emblems’. The American Civil War caused a reversal in American policy in 1862, when Abraham Lincoln’s government signed a secret treaty allowing the Royal Navy to intercept American slavers. The Spanish and Cuban authorities bowed to circumstances, and the Atlantic slave trade was effectively ended. Slavery itself remained legal in the United States until the 1860s, and in much of Latin America until the 1880s. As late as 1881 the Royal Navy arrested an American slave ship off the Gold Coast.

     “The British campaign against the slave trade has often been debunked. French and American slave-traders accused Britain of using it as a pretext to try to gain control of West Africa, Cuba, even Texas. Some later historians claimed that slavery ended only because it was no longer profitable. But recent research is practically unanimous that slavery was booming, and it would have been in Britain’s economic interests to expand it, as the United States did. But Britain was rich enough to let its powerful humanitarian and religious lobby get its way.

     “Did Britain – another accusation at the time and since – use the slave trade as a pretext for colonial expansion in Africa? In fact, successive governments were reluctant to rule inhospitable and relatively profitless territory, and movement inland was negligible until the late-nineteenth-century ‘scramble for Africa’. The exception, which involved campaigns against the aggressive slaving kingdom of Asante (Ashanti) – a magnificent and exceptionally cruel warrior society – was done at the request of Africans on the coast, who were subject to repeated attack from the 1820s onwards and requested British protection. Central Africa meanwhile was being devastated by Muslim slavers supplying the Middle East. The Foreign Office estimated that they were taking 25,000 – 30,000 people per year during the 1860s, and the nineteenth century total has been estimated at between 4 million and 6 million people, huge numbers dying as they were dragged across the Sahara or to the coast, and many others being killed in the violence of capture. British anti-slavery groups – inspired by the adventures and writings in the 1850s and 1860s of one of the most revered Victorian heroes, David Livingstone – demanded government intervention in what Livingstone had rightly called the open sore of the world. He hoped optimistically that a ‘Christian colony’ of ‘twenty or thirty good Christian Scotch families’ would lead to moral and commercial improvement and would put an end to slavery. Instead, a long diplomatic effort was required to throttle the trade, by persuading African rulers to stop supplying and Muslim states to close the great slave-markets of Egypt, Persia, Turkey and the Gulf. Britain had far less power to act directly in the Muslim world, where slavery had ancient social and religious sanction, so action had to be discreet. The consul-general at Cairo in the1860s, Thomas F. Reade, spied out the Egyptian slave markets disguised as an Arab. He estimated that 15,000 Africans were sold at Cairo annually, and reported on ‘the cruelties and abominations’ involved. Other diplomats were active in helping escaped slaves, including by purchasing their freedom with official funds, and the consul in Benghazi maintained a safe house for escapees at his own expense. British interference in the slave trade – however cautious Whitehall tried to be – could cause serious tensions and even led to mass uprisings in Egypt and the Sudan. However, careful but persistent pressure on the Egyptian, Turkish and Persian governments to forbid the trade, backed up by naval patrols, treaties and even bribes to officials to apply law eventually had considerable effect. Pressure and financial inducements to the sultan of Zanzibar (a vast slaving entrepôt) shut its slave market in 1873…”[18]

     “The main focus of the new geopolitics, however,” writes Simms, “was Europe. With liberal – but not radical – governments in Paris after 1830, and in London from 1832, France and Britain were now ideologically aligned. In 1834, both powers responded to Münchengrätz by coming together with liberal-constitutionalist Spain and Portugal to form the Quadruple Alliance. ‘The Triple League of despotic governments,’ Palmerston exulted, ‘will now be counter-balanced by a Quadruple Alliance in the west.’ The continent was now split into two ideologically divided camps. Once hopeful of Alexander’s intentions, liberal opinion saw the Tsarist Empire of Nicholas I as the bulwark of reaction across Europe. The British writer Robert Bremner noted at the end of the decade that the European press was teeming with books painting Russia as the ‘most boundless, irresistible… most formidable, and best consolidated [power] that ever threatened the liberties and rights of man’.”[19]

    And yet the institution of serfdom, for which Russia was particularly reproached (together with her autocracy), was by no means unique to her. Serfs were not slaves, since they had rights as well as obligations; but they were tied to the land and the landowners in an essentially feudal relationship, being the basis of the agrarian economy of the whole of Central and Eastern Europe. After 1815, they were gradually emancipated throughout the region, with the greatest single act of emancipation in history taking place in Russia in 1861.

     “The scale of these measures,” as Evans writes, “was vast. In East-Elbian Prussia, 480,000 peasants became free proprietors in the wake of the emancipation edicts of the early nineteenth century. Even in a small country such as Romania, more than 400,000 peasant received ownership of their land, and another 51,000 households were given land enough for a house and garden. Nearly 700,000 peasants in Poland [which was, of course, in the Russian Empire] became landowners. In the German and Slav provinces of the Habsburg Empire, the emancipation involved more than two and a half million peasant households indemnifying nearly 35,000 landowners for the loss of 39 million days of labour services without animals and 30,000 days with them, plus over 10 million bushels of dues in kind. In Russia the emancipation was even more gargantuan in its effects, with some 10 million peasants on private estates receiving title to nearly 100 million acres of land, quite apart from the similar measures already enacted for the even larger number of serfs on state demesnes. Nevertheless, everywhere the measures were put into effect relatively quickly, with a minimum of fuss. In principle this was the greatest single act of emancipation and reform in Europe during the whole of the nineteenth century. A huge class of people who had hitherto been bound to the land in a form of neo-feudal servitude had been emancipated from its chains and given equal rights as full citizens. Legally prescribed social distinctions now came to an effective end. Encrusted status and privilege had been swept away and every adult male was now in almost every respect equal before the law and free to dispose over his person and his property. The last significant legal vestiges of the society of social orders assailed by the French Revolution of 1789 left the stage of history…”[20]


June 23 / July 6, 2018.

St. Etheldreda of Ely.



[1]Simms, Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, London: Allen Lane, 2013, p. 181.

[2] See Christine Tasin, “Esclavage: les Arabo-musulmans ont tué ou déporté 17 millions d’Africains et 3 millions d’Européens”, May 10, 2017. A particularly egregious example of native African slavery was seen in Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar (1829-1842).“Putting an end to most foreign trade relationships, Ranavalona I pursued a policy of self-reliance, made possible through frequent use of the long-standing tradition of fanompoana—forced labor in lieu of tax payments in money or goods. Ranavalona continued the wars of expansion conducted by her predecessor, Radama I, in an effort to extend her realm over the entire island, and imposed strict punishments on those who were judged as having acted in opposition to her will. Due in large part to loss of life throughout the years of military campaigns, high death rates among fanompoana workers, and harsh traditions of justice under her rule, the population of Madagascar is estimated to have declined from around 5 million to 2.5 million between 1833 and 1839, and from 750,000 to 130,000 between 1829 and 1842 in Imerina.” (About History, July 10, 2017,


[3] Harari, Sapiens. A Brief History of Humankind, London: Vintage, 2011, pp. 368-370.

[4] Tombs, The English and their History, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014, p. 340.

[5] Kissinger, World Order, London: Penguin, 2015, p. 174.

[6]“Guilty Parties”, The Economist, December 31, 1999, p. 90.

[7]Simms, op. cit., p. 145.

[8]Walvin, “The Cause of a Nation”, BBC History Magazine, vol. 8, no. 3, March, 2007, p. 7.

[9] Zamoyski, Holy Madness: Romantics, Patriots and Revolutionaries, 1776-1871, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999, p. 130.

[10] Mark Almond, Revolution, London: De Agostini, 1996, p. 85.

[11] Claude Ribbe, in Ian Sparks, “How Napoleon’s massacre of 100,000 blacks inspired Hitler”, Daily Mail, November 30, 2005, p. 35.

[12]Bourke, What it Means to be Human, London: Virago, 2011, p. 128. By a profound irony, “according to one estimate, Haiti has more slaves [today] ‘than any other country outside Asia.” (op. cit., p. 152)

[13]“Guilty Parties”, The Economist, December 31, 1999, p. 90.

[14] Tombs, op. cit., pp. 549-550.

[15]Tombs, op. cit., pp. 550.

[16] Evans, op. cit., p. 660.

[17]Simms, op. cit., pp. 198-200.

[18] Tombs, op. cit., pp. 550-553.

[19]Simms, op. cit., p. 201.

[20] Evans, op. cit., p. 98.

‹‹ Back to All Articles
Site Created by The Marvellous Media Company