306 Reviews of Books toriographies that do not always engage each other di- East Africa from the 1860s, however, the attitudes of the rectly. The analysis of interlocking medical and legal dis- BFASS became less distinguishable from those of the courses and of the effects that they had on each other re- more aggressive apologists for what turned into the veals that neither is an isolated system of thought. The “scramblefor Africa.” TheBFASS came to sharethe book will be a valuable resource for scholars interested in view that the stubborn persistence of slavery and the slave the history of legal insanity as well as for those interested trade was due to a congenital African defect, and one in broader questions related to responsibility. that was particularly marked in African Muslims. BFASS DANA RABIN members’ own prejudices made it difﬁcult for them to see University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that antislavery was increasingly becoming a convenient justiﬁcation for European conquest and exploitation. Hence, they embraced the carving up of Africa at the JAMES HEARTFIELD. The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, welcomed the establish- Society, 1838–1956: A History. New York: Oxford Uni- ment of Belgium’s Congo Free State, and were egre- versity Press, 2016. Pp. xii, 486. $65.00. giously late in comprehending that the Belgians had More private institutions get their own published histo- turned the heart of Africa into a hecatomb. At the dawn ries than deserve them. But the British and Foreign Anti- of the twentieth century, the BFASS was likewise slow to Slavery Society (BFASS) is book-worthy, and in James see that the extension of mining and commercial farming Heartﬁeld it ﬁnds an able and judicious chronicler. This in East and Southern Africa was predicated on the exploi- institution’s story is worth telling because antislavery was tation of native peoples. Thus, BFASS supported a “na- at the core of most Victorian Britons’ understanding of tive reserves” policy that cleared Africans from fertile their empire, and the BFASS was the institutional keeper lands and turned many Africans into something akin to of Britain’s antislavery conscience. Once emancipation wage slaves. hadﬁnally beenachieved inthe BritishCaribbean in In other words, Heartﬁeld sees the BFASS warts and 1833, British abolitionists set themselves the lofty task of all while still giving them full credit for good intentions. A ridding the entire world of slavery. The BFASS remained scrupulously fair and meticulous scholar, he laudably re- in the abolitionist vanguard for the rest of the nineteenth fuses to judge his Victorian do-gooders by the multicul- century and well into the twentieth. While its leaders turalist standards of the early twenty-ﬁrst century. But were mostly Liberal and Dissenting, it worked closely even by his own standards there are places where he with the Foreign and Colonial Ofﬁces even when the might well have been more critical. Like many zealous re- Tories were in power, and it helped to shape imperial pol- form groups, the BFASS repeatedly turned the perfect icy from the abolition of apprenticeship in the late 1830s into the enemy of the good. The suppression of the inter- to the establishment of the Mandate System after World national slave trade would not have happened without War I. These were inﬂuential do-gooders who genuinely British gunboat diplomacy, but on ethical grounds the believed that the British Empire was a humanitarian BFASS could not bring itself to endorse violence even for force for the global advancement of what was right and this worthiest of causes. Even less accountably, members’ what was just. Heartﬁeld gives them full credit for their obsession with purity of motives caused them openly to good intentions. But he also shows that they were just as question the sincerity of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipa- prone to the hypocrisy and bigotry that British imperial- tion Proclamation. Their simon-pure criticism ceded the ists almost inevitably had in common. Some measure of moral high ground in the century’s most epic struggle both was bound to arise from the assumption that one’s over slavery to its working-class rival, the Union Emanci- civilization was the benchmark for all others and that the pation Society, which was much more categorical in its only way tobring the others up tothe mark was torule denunciations of the secessionist “slave power” of the over them. American South. More generally, Heartﬁeld’s text could This assumption of British superiority took more au- use a good trim. One sometimes gets lost in the dense thoritarian and racialized forms as the Victorians came to thickets of detail that too often mark the landscape of or- conclude that their imperial charges were failing to em- ganizational histories. Ruthless pruning and stronger the- brace ostensibly British values, and the BFASS ultimately matic signposting would have helped the reader stay on shared in this hardening of attitudes. One of the foremost course. Still, anyone with an interest in British antislavery of those values was of free trade as a universal blessing. will proﬁt from what Heartﬁeld has to say. So when the sugar economies of the emancipated British PHILIP HARLING Caribbean failed to compete with the slave sugar of Brazil University of Kentucky and Cuba in the open market from the late 1840s for- ward, most Britons blamed it on the laziness and idleness MARC FLANDREAU. Anthropologists in the Stock Ex- of the emancipated slaves. Here BFASS members re- change: A Financial History of Victorian Science.Chi- mained more empathetic than most British observers. cago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. Pp. xix, 421. They continued to insist for some time that the freed peo- $35.00. ple’s preference for subsistence farming over sugar pro- duction was a logical choice for people who had every In this frustrating but occasionally valuable book, Marc reason to treat the latter as a mark of their earlier bond- Flandreau examines the origins of British anthropology age. As Britain’s antislavery mission moved from West to in the 1860s. He claims that George W. Stocking Jr. and AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW FEBRUARY 2018 Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/ahr/article-abstract/123/1/306/4840381 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018
The American Historical Review – Oxford University Press
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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