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The English Protestant Churches since 1770

Politics, Class and Society

Kenneth Hylson-Smith

This book aims to describe and analyse the political and social thinking, attitudes and actions of the English Protestant churches since the late eighteenth century. It focuses in particular on how they have responded to the plight of the least privileged members of society – individuals and groups marginalised or placed at a disadvantage as a consequence of their ethnicity or socioeconomic circumstances. These have been the nation’s underdogs, the most powerless of its inhabitants, and this book explores the involvement of the churches in attempting to create a fairer society, from the anti-slavery campaign to the present day.

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Chapter 1: The anti-slave trade and anti-slavery campaigns

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CHAPTER 1

The anti-slave trade and anti-slavery campaigns

Slavery has had a long and inglorious history. It has been all too common from time immemorial, and has tarnished most regions of the world at some time. Some forms of it have been more benign than others. But in every case the dominant feature, and the core element has been the control exercised by one group of people over the lives of others, which invariably has been so great that the subservient victims have been totally, or almost totally, deprived of freedom and personal rights. This was so with the ancient Egyptians, the kingdom of the Persian Xerxes, the Greek and Roman civilisations, and the Celts and Saxons dwelling in the northern fringes of the Roman Empire.

A review of the sad and sordid story of slavery from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth century, with special reference to the part played in it by England is desirable in order to set the scene for the late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century campaigns first for the abolition of the slave trade, and then for the ending of slavery itself in British territories. These crusades were rooted in, and coloured by, what went before, and such a survey will make them more comprehensible.

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