Fara Dabhoiwala at The Guardian:
Britain’s national myth about slavery goes something like this: for most of history, slavery was a normal state of affairs; but in the later 18th century, enlightened Britons such as William Wilberforce led the way in fighting against it. Britain ended the slave trade in 1807, before any other nation, and thereafter campaigned zealously to eradicate it everywhere else.
As Michael Taylor points out in his scintillating new book, this is a farrago of nonsense. Slavery was certainly an ancient practice, but for 200 years the British developed it on an unprecedented scale. Throughout the 18th century, they were the world’s foremost slavers, and the plantation system they helped create devoured the lives of millions of African men, women and children. In the name of profit and racial superiority, English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish enslavers inflicted a holocaust of suffering on their human chattels, practising rape, torture, mutilation, and manslaughter.