Although the significance of transatlantic currents of influence on slavery and abolition in the Americas has received substantial scholarly attention, the focus has tended to be largely on the British transatlantic, or on the effects of American racial politics on the emergence of Irish American political identity in the US. The specifics of Ireland’s role as a transnational hub of anti-slavery literary and political activity, and as deeply imbricated in debates around slavery and freedom, are often overlooked.
This collection points to the particularity and significance of Ireland’s place in nineteenth-century exchanges around slavery and anti-slavery. Importantly, it foregrounds the context of empire – Ireland was both one of the ‘home’ nations of the UK, on many levels deeply complicit in British imperialism, and a space of emergent anti-colonial radicalism, bourgeois nationalism, and significant literary opportunity for Black abolitionist writers – as a key mediator of the ways in which the conceptual and practical responses to slavery and anti-slavery took shape in the Irish context. Moving beyond the transatlantic model often used to position debates around slavery in the Americas, it incorporates discussion around campaigns to abolish slavery within the empire, opening up the possibility of wider comparative discussions of slavery and anti-slavery around the Indian Ocean and the African continent. It also emphasizes the plurality of positions in play across class, political, racial and national lines, and the ways in which those positions shifted in response to changing social, cultural and economic conditions. This book was originally published as a special issue of Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies.