To our eyes, eighteenth-century Britain can look like a world of opposites. On one hand everything was new: political parties and a ‘prime’ minister emerged in parliament; their sometime unruly debates were recorded by an expanding political press, whose products were read and debated in London’s many coffee houses. The Enlightenment began in Scotland, and unleashed new ideas about natural law, natural rights, and the perfectibility of society that drove the great democratic revolutions.
On the other hand, the eighteenth century was defined by the survival of the old. For some historians, power continued to be channelled through the institutions of the ancien regime
: the monarchy, the Church and the aristocracy. But that world was changing. Public attention turned to other places, namely Britain’s expanding global empire that brought new goods, fresh ideas, and very diverse peoples into British consciousness.
is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow and Senior Research Associate in History at the University of Bristol. In Beyond Slavery and Abolition: Black British Writing, c. 1770 -1830
(Cambridge University Press, 2019), he seeks to shift the focus of black history away from a slavery and abolition, and toward something more complex. In a series of beautifully turned intellectual and cultural biographies, he reveals the contribution of black writers to politics, culture and the arts in eighteenth century Britain, helping it along the way to becoming modern.
Charles Prior is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hull (UK), who has written on the politics of religion in early modern Britain, and whose work has recently expanded to the intersection of colonial, indigenous, and imperial politics in early America. He co-leads the Treatied Spaces Research Cluster.