William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner

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9780007228850: William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner

William Hague has written the life of William Wilberforce who was both a staunch conservative and a tireless campaigner against the slave trade to coincide with the bicentenary of its abolition in 1807.

A formidable orator, campaigner and tactician, Yorkshire-born William Wilberforce spearheaded in Parliament the 20-year-long campaign to abolish one of the great abominations of the eighteenth century: the Atlantic slave trade. Starting with research which led him famously to decide in 1787 that 'so enormous, so dreadful and so irremediable did it appear that I resolved I would not rest until I had effected its abolition', Wilberforce and his small band of allies took on the most powerful vested interests in the land, as well as some formidable political opponents, to secure eventual triumph in the dramatic events of 1807.

This is the extraordinary story of a politician (and good friend of William Pitt the Younger) who shunned all honours, titles and ministerial positions, yet became one of the most influential Britons in history. Born into wealth and idleness, he transformed himself into a man who to a unique degree combined friendship, philanthropy and evangelism with immense social and political achievements.

In this book, published in the bicentenary of the slave trade's abolition, award-winning author William Hague brilliantly illuminates Wilberforce's turbulent life and career, offering a politician's insights into the parliamentary manoeuvres and electoral dramas with which he had to contend. He shows how Wilberforce's conviction and faith allowed him to hold fast to his independence and (generally conservative) beliefs even at a time of war, revolution and social upheaval. And he demonstrates how the eradication of the slave trade was genuinely the work of a lifetime, paving the way for the abolition of slavery itself throughout the British Empire, enacted while Wilberforce lay dying in 1833.

The result is a compelling account of a man who achieved the rare feat of placing principle above politics, mankind above party and results above ambition. A vital part of human history, this is also a timeless story of determination and inspiration.

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Review:

'The author has produced a splendid read for which he deserves the utmost credit. He tells Wilberforce's story with such enthusiasm and narrative skill that, in this bicentennial year, his book seems assured of bestsellerdom. I put it down liking Hague as much as I was moved by his tale, one of the most remarkable in British political history.' Sunday Times

'Gripping…absorbing…the definitive biography.' Daily Mail

'In William Hague, Wilberforce has found a sympathetic, judicious biographer…Hague has written the best modern study of this remarkable man.' Mail on Sunday

'Informed by a nuanced sense of what was and was not politically possible at that moment…lucid and convincing…gripping.' Daily Telegraph

‘William Hague has assumed from Roy Jenkins the mantle of Britain's foremost politician-biographer. This magnificent biography of William Wilberforce succeeds his good debut life of William Pitt…his achievement goes far beyond an attractive prose style and meticulously accurate historical re-recreation. The insights drawn from a wide parliamentary and political experience bring to life the genius of the great anti-slave trade campaigner in a wholly new and vivid way.’ Evening Standard

Daily Telegraph:

'...lucid and convincing...gripping.'

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William Hague
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