British Unitarians against American Slavery, 1833-65by Douglas Charles Stange

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  • British Unitarians against American Slavery, 1833-65 by Douglas Charles StangeReview by: William J. BakerThe American Historical Review, Vol. 91, No. 2 (Apr., 1986), p. 398Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Historical AssociationStable URL: .Accessed: 28/06/2014 13:32

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  • 398 Reviews of Books

    ans of geology in particular and of science in gen- eral.

    The book has many useful diagrams, but it is annoying that references to them do not give the pages on which they are to be found. This is, however, a relatively minor complaint about an impressive book that I greatly admire.


    University of Akron

    DOUGLAS CHARLES STANGE. British Unitarians against American Slavery, 1833-65. Cranbury, N.J.: Farleigh Dickinson University Press or Associated University Presses, London. 1984. Pp. 259. $29.50.

    A host of monographs and scholarly articles docu- ments the peculiar fascination that American slavery held for Britons in the wake of the Emancipation Act of 1833. Once slavery had been officially abol- ished within the British empire, evangelical Angli- cans, Quakers, and Methodists remained at the forefront of abolitionist activity, redirecting their public addresses, sermons, pamphlets, petitions, and transatlantic correspondence. So did the British Unitarians, whose antislavery principles derived in part from their doctrine of universal brotherhood, in larger part from their identification with op- pressed minorities. Considered "infidels" by ortho- dox churchmen, the Unitarians were the self- professed "theological negroes" of England.

    At first glance, the Unitarians' antislavery crusade seems unworthy of monographic attention. Unitar- ians composed only 2 percent of Nonconformity; according to the census of 1851, they numbered merely thirty thousand active members in 229 places of worship. Yet Douglas Charles Stange insists that their influence far outweighed their inconsequential size because they provided a highly educated, artic- ulate body of opinion from a financially successful and politically aggressive base. Unfortunately, the reader must take much of this assertion on faith, for the educational, occupational, and social status of the Unitarians is never submitted to scrutiny. Occa- sionally, a leading Unitarian spokesman is identified as a manufacturer or merchant, and at the very end of the book a passing nod is given to Howard Temperley's suggestion that economic interests worked in tandem with humanitarian zeal in the British antislavery movement. For the most part, however, this is a rather old-fashioned study of opinion that is largely divorced from the cultural context of mid-Victorian England as well as from other Unitarian concerns such as temperance and peace.

    From an impressive mass of manuscripts, pamph- lets, and newspapers, the author reconstructs Uni- tarian arguments that were admittedly articulate in

    some cases, abrasively earnest without fail. Against American slavery they argued most over means rather than ends. Like the larger body of antislavery opinion in Britain, Unitarians divided sharply be- tween Garrisonian radicalism and more moderate proposals for reform. That the- Garrisonians failed to win solid Unitarian support should come as no surprise in light of the supreme irony that many of the charities and chapels of England's most self- consciously liberal denomination were funded from a trust provided by the plantation profits of Robert Hibbert, a Jamaican slaveowner prior to 1833.


    University of Maine

    JANET OPPENHEIM. The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1985. Pp. xii, 503. $44.50.

    Perhaps because it is a product of the 1980s, this book is disappointingly timid. To a subject with exciting potential for the exploration of the late nineteenth century (as partly demonstrated by sev- eral scholars in recent years), Janet Oppenheim inflicts a relentless demureness. Although she fully succeeds in her aim to explore the Victorian "fasci- nation" with spirits and psychic phenomena in terms of Victorian frameworks of understanding and eval- uation, her accomplishment comes to little more than an "impartial" update of the more personally invested histories of the spiritualist movement by Frank Podmore (1902) and Arthur Conan Doyle (1924).

    After an initial fifty pages that set the scene and social landscaping, the book divides more or less evenly into two parts. The first, which might have been denominated "Magic and the Decline of Reli- gion," treats the various implications of spiritualism within the familiar acreage between science and religion and deals, in particular, with the agonzied victims of the proverbial "crisis of faith" in their search for a surrogate faith. For good or for ill, Oppenheim offers no simple explanation for the turning to spirits; although many of the persons she discusses appear to have become seriously involved in the spiritualist movement only after the deaths of persons close to them, their biographies illustrate, above all, the variety and complexity of responses to the phenomena in an age scientistically inclined yet struggling against the clutches of materialism.

    After surveying (at greater length than would seem necessary) the so-called pseudoscientific and fringe alternative medical practices that fed into the spiritualist movement, Oppenheim settles down in the latter part of the book to writing what amounts to a series of full-length entries for a spiritualist

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    Article Contentsp. 398

    Issue Table of ContentsThe American Historical Review, Vol. 91, No. 2 (Apr., 1986), pp. i-x+245-518+1(a)-52(a)Front Matter [pp. i - x]Cotton Mill People: Work, Community, and Protest in the Textile South, 1880-1940 [pp. 245 - 286]Atrocious Misery: The African Origins of Famine in Northern Somalia, 1839-1884 [pp. 287 - 306]Anglo-Indian Medical Theory and the Origins of Segregation in West Africa [pp. 307 - 335]Notes and CommentPsychohistory as History [pp. 336 - 354]

    Reviews of BooksGeneraluntitled [pp. 355 - 356]untitled [pp. 356 - 357]untitled [pp. 357 - 358]untitled [pp. 358 - 359]untitled [pp. 359 - 360]untitled [p. 360]untitled [pp. 360 - 362]untitled [pp. 362 - 363]untitled [pp. 363 - 364]untitled [p. 364]

    Ancientuntitled [pp. 364 - 365]untitled [pp. 365 - 366]untitled [p. 366]untitled [pp. 366 - 367]untitled [pp. 367 - 368]untitled [pp. 368 - 369]untitled [p. 369]

    Medievaluntitled [pp. 369 - 370]untitled [pp. 370 - 371]untitled [p. 371]untitled [pp. 371 - 372]untitled [pp. 372 - 373]untitled [p. 373]untitled [pp. 373 - 374]untitled [pp. 374 - 375]untitled [pp. 375 - 376]untitled [pp. 376 - 377]untitled [p. 377]untitled [pp. 377 - 378]untitled [pp. 378 - 379]untitled [pp. 379 - 380]untitled [p. 380]

    Modern Europeuntitled [pp. 381 - 382]untitled [pp. 382 - 383]untitled [pp. 383 - 384]untitled [p. 384]untitled [pp. 384 - 385]untitled [pp. 385 - 386]untitled [p. 386]untitled [pp. 386 - 387]untitled [pp. 387 - 388]untitled [p. 388]untitled [pp. 388 - 389]untitled [p. 389]untitled [pp. 389 - 390]untitled [pp. 390 - 391]untitled [pp. 391 - 392]untitled [p. 392]untitled [pp. 392 - 393]untitled [pp. 393 - 394]untitled [p. 394]untitled [pp. 394 - 395]untitled [pp. 395 - 396]untitled [p. 396]untitled [pp. 396 - 397]untitled [pp. 397 - 398]untitled [p. 398]untitled [pp. 398 - 399]untitled [pp. 399 - 400]untitled [p. 400]untitled [pp. 400 - 401]untitled [pp. 401 - 402]untitled [p. 402]untitled [pp. 402 - 403]untitled [pp. 403 - 404]untitled [p. 404]untitled [pp. 404 - 405]untitled [pp. 405 - 406]untitled [pp. 406 - 407]untitled [p. 407]untitled [pp. 407 - 408]untitled [pp. 408 - 409]untitled [pp. 409 - 410]untitled [pp. 410 - 411]untitled [p. 411]untitled [pp. 411 - 412]untitled [pp. 412 - 413]untitled [pp. 413 - 414]untitled [p. 414]untitled [p. 414]untitled [p. 415]untitled [pp. 415 - 416]untitled [pp. 416 - 417]untitled [p. 417]untitled [pp. 417 - 418]untitled [pp. 418 - 419]untitled [p. 419]untitled [pp. 419 - 420]untitled [p. 420]untitled [pp. 421 - 422]untitled [pp. 422 - 423]untitled [p. 423]untitled [pp. 423 - 424]untitled [pp. 424 - 425]untitled [pp. 425 - 426]untitled [pp. 426 - 427]untitled [pp. 427 - 428]untitled [p. 428]untitled [pp. 428 - 429]untitled [pp. 429 - 430]untitled [p. 430]untitled [pp. 430 - 431]untitled [pp. 431 - 432]untitled [pp. 432 - 433]untitled [pp. 433 - 434]untitled [p. 434]untitled [p. 435]untitled [pp. 435 - 436]untitled [p. 436]untitled [pp. 436 - 437]untitled [p. 437]untitled [pp. 437 - 438]untitled [pp. 438 - 439]

    Near Eastuntitled [p. 439]untitled [pp. 439 - 440]untitled [pp. 440 - 441]untitled [pp. 441 - 442]

    Africauntitled [pp. 442 - 443]untitled [p. 443]untitled [pp. 443 - 444]

    Asia and the Eastuntitled [p. 444]untitled [pp. 444 - 445]untitled [pp. 445 - 446]untitled [p. 446]untitled [pp. 446 - 447]untitled [pp. 447 - 448]untitled [pp. 448 - 449]untitled [pp. 449 - 450]untitled [pp. 450 - 451]untitled [pp. 451 - 452]untitled [p. 452]

    United Statesuntitled [pp. 452 - 453]untitled [pp. 453 - 454]untitled [p. 454]untitled [pp. 454 - 455]untitled [pp. 455 - 456]untitled [p. 456]untitled [p. 457]untitled [pp. 457 - 458]untitled [pp. 458 - 459]untitled [p. 459]untitled [pp. 459 - 460]untitled [pp. 460 - 461]untitled [p. 461]untitled [pp. 461 - 462]untitled [p. 462]untitled [pp. 462 - 463]untitled [pp. 463 - 464]untitled [pp. 464 - 465]untitled [p. 465]untitled [pp. 465 - 466]untitled [pp. 466 - 467]untitled [pp. 467 - 468]untitled [p. 468]untitled [pp. 468 - 469]untitled [p. 469]untitled [pp. 469 - 470]untitled [pp. 470 - 471]untitled [p. 471]untitled [pp. 471 - 472]untitled [pp. 472 - 473]untitled [p. 473]untitled [pp. 473 - 474]untitled [pp. 474 - 475]untitled [pp. 475 - 476]untitled [p. 476]untitled [pp. 476 - 477]untitled [pp. 477 - 478]untitled [p. 478]untitled [pp. 478 - 479]untitled [pp. 479 - 480]untitled [pp. 480 - 481]untitled [p. 481]untitled [pp. 481 - 482]untitled [p. 482]untitled [p. 483]untitled [pp. 483 - 484]untitled [pp. 484 - 485]untitled [p. 485]untitled [pp. 485 - 486]untitled [pp. 486 - 487]untitled [pp. 487 - 488]untitled [p. 488]untitled [pp. 488 - 489]

    Canadauntitled [pp. 489 - 490]untitled [p. 490]untitled [pp. 490 - 491]untitled [pp. 491 - 492]untitled [pp. 492 - 493]untitled [p. 493]untitled [pp. 493 - 494]

    Latin Americauntitled [p. 494]untitled [p. 495]untitled [pp. 495 - 496]untitled [p. 496]untitled [pp. 496 - 497]untitled [pp. 497 - 498]untitled [pp. 498 - 499]untitled [p. 499]untitled [pp. 499 - 500]untitled [pp. 500 - 501]

    Collected Essays [pp. 502 - 509]Documents and Bibliographies [pp. 510 - 511]Other Books Received [pp. 512 - 514]Communications [pp. 515 - 518]Back Matter [pp. 1(a) - 52(a)]


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