In this timely and readable new work, Walvin focuses not on abolitionism or the brutality of slavery, but the resistance of the enslaved themselves—from sabotage and absconding to full-blown uprisings—and its impact in overthrowing slavery. Following Columbus's landfall, slavery became a critical institution across the New World. It had seismic consequences for Africa while leading to the transformation of the Americas and to the material enrichment of the West. It was also largely unquestioned.Yet within seventy-five years slavery vanished from the Americas: it declined and collapsed by a complexity of forces that, to this day, remains disputed, but there is no doubting that it was in large part defeated by those it had enslaved. Slavery itself came in many shapes and sizes. It is perhaps best remembered on plantations, but slavery varied enormously by crop (sugar, tobacco, rice, coffee, cotton), and there was enslaved labor on ships and docks, in factories and the frontier, as well domestically. But if all these millions of diverse, enslaved people had one thing in common it was a universal detestation of their bondage. The end of slavery and the triumph of black freedom constitutes an extraordinary historical upheaval, one which still resonates throughout the world today.
James Walvin is the author of several books on slavery and modern social history. including Crossings and A Jamaican Plantation. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 2008 he was awarded an OBE for services to scholarship. He lives in England.
"A roller-coaster ride through 500 years of history. Sugar is an entertaining, informative and utterly depressing global history of an important commodity. By alerting readers to the ways that modernity’s very origins are entangled with a seemingly benign and delicious substance, Sugar raises fundamental questions about our world." (praise for SUGAR)
– The New York Times Book Review (praise for SUGAR)
"Walvin makes it abundantly clear that slaves actively pursued their liberation, rather than passively accepting their fate."
"A brilliant and thought-provoking history of sugar and its ironies. Walvin writes with fresh and righteous shock." (Praise for SUGAR)
– The Wall Street Journal (Praise for SUGAR)
"In this lucid work, historian Walvin focuses on the rapid decline of slavery in the Western world. This account, which illuminates a topic that remains widely misunderstood, merits a wide readership."
– Publishers Weekly
"Shocking and revelatory."
– David Olusoga, author of THE KAISER'S HOLOCAUST and host of the BBC's "Civilization"