British romanticism, slavery and the slave trade 1780s to 1830s

Sonoi, C., 2009. British romanticism, slavery and the slave trade 1780s to 1830s. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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This thesis investigates the Romantic discourses on slavery in their socio-political context from 1780s to 1830s. I explore the abolitionist discourses of Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey, and examine how they expressed their egalitarian sensibilities and revolutionary ideas through their work. The thesis demonstrates how Romantic ideology and eighteenth-century radicalism developed alongside the growth of the abolitionist movement in England. The egalitarian ideology of the Romantics derived from their republican nature as well as their dissenting philosophy. The Romantics showed sympathy towards black slaves and their suffering. As dissenters, they shared the frustration and indignation felt by black slaves, whose social rights were repressed in English society. Through their anti-slavery propaganda, the Romantics criticized the way in which the British government and the Established Church were destroying human freedom and equality. The thesis shows how the Romantics used their abolitionist discourses to display their humanitarian theology as well as to protest against social injustice.

I also examine the complex relation between the Romantic discourses on slavery and liberalism and nationalism. The Romantic abolitionists often revealed a Euro-centric vision with regard to slavery issues; I refer in particular to the role of anti-slavery propaganda in the argument for justifying the conversion of slaves to Christianity. By claiming that it was necessary to educate slaves by imposing Christian doctrine on them, the Romantics demonstrated their belief in the superiority of white European civilization. This assumption mirrored the fierce discrimination against black people which prevailed at that time. I investigate the delicate balance between the Romantics' humanitarian sensibility and their nationalist ideology in their abolitionist work.

Chapters 1 and 2 examine the history of the British slave trade and the abolitionist debate, in preparation for an analysis of the relationship between Romantic poetry and its social context. Chapters 3 to 6 focus on the abolitionist discourses of each Romantic poet. This study offers a key to understanding the socio-political nature of Romantic ideology.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Sonoi, C.
Date: 2009
ISBN: 9781369314403
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed in the owner(s) of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 18 Sep 2020 12:37
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2023 08:22

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