Reviews

  • An outstanding and gripping revelation ... essential reading

    Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • Scintillating ... In twenty brisk, gripping chapters, Taylor charts the course from the foundation of the Anti-Slavery Society in 1823 to the final passage of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833. Part of what makes this a compulsively readable book is his skill in cross-cutting between three groups of protagonists. On one track, we follow the abolitionist campaigners on their lengthy, uphill battle ... This well-known story is reanimated by some brilliant pen-portraits ... A second strand illuminates the fears and bigotries of white British West Indians ... The main focus of the book, however, is on the colonists' powerful domestic allies, the so-called West India Interest ... Taylor paints a vivid picture of their outlook, organisation and superior political connections ... As this timely, sobering book reminds us, British abolition cannot be celebrated as an inevitable or precocious national triumph. It was not the end, but only the beginning

    Fara Dabhoiwala, Guardian
  • One achievement of Taylor's fascinating book is that, for the first time in a book about abolition, it gives equal weight to the force of pro-slavery ... Taylor's political analysis is first-rate and riveting ... He argues that emancipation was neither inevitable nor altruistic; party politics in Westminster and rebellion from the West Indies played as much a role as moral outrage. Taylor's achievement [is to] show that, thanks to the power of the Interest, being pro-slavery was seen as a respectable, even popular, position in British politics until the day of its demise. Above all, he reminds us of the role of those who have been unsung in this story - of Mary Prince, Samuel Sharpe and Quamina

    Ben Wilson, The Times
  • A magnificent book ... riveting

    Ian Thomson, Evening Standard
  • Powerful ... engrossing ... Taylor's potent book shows why slavery took root as an essential part of British national life

    Martin Chilton, Independent
  • Taylor can tell a story superbly and has a fine eye for detail ... His argument is a potent and necessary corrective to a cosy national myth

    Economist
  • Taylor superbly brings to life all the intrigue, machinations, heavy-lifting, rigmarole and chance of the tortuous path to abolition

    H Kumarasingham, Literary Review
  • Impressively researched and engagingly written

    Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
  • Impressive ... Taylor tells a compelling story, graced with anecdotes but driven by argument, that moves the reader to and fro between London and the Caribbean, and between aristocratic houses and anti-slavery rallies ... with fierce moral passion ... Taylor vividly evokes the slave revolts ... reveals some of the atrocities perpetrated by slave-owners ... Yet the book's primary focus is political because, as Taylor emphasises, the abolition of slavery turned to a large extent on events at Westminster ... Yet votes were not enough; bribery was also vital ... The writing of British history must encompass slave-power, not just sea-power - as Taylor's scorching book makes clear

    David Reynolds, New Statesman
  • Michael Taylor's well-researched The Interest is ... about abolition, but it focuses on the grandees who fought against it, mostly for reasons of greed ... those seeking a catalogue of the country's old iniquities need look no further

    Simon Heffer, Telegraph Books of the Year

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