Racial violence, universal history, and echoes of abolition in twentieth-century zanzibar

Jonathon Glassman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

14 Scopus citations


The ideas and discourses of abolitionism continued to exert an impact on Africa long after the end of slavery. Their most obvious legacy lay in the colonial project that dominated the continent's political life throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Colonial rulers imagined the suppression of slavery as but the first of a series of steps undertaken in the name of a moral obligation to free Africans from barbarism and bring them into the age of civilization and modernity.1 This civilizing mission, and the historicist vision in which it was embedded, continued to shape governing policies right into the postwar years, which Frederick Cooper has characterized as the era of "developmental" colonialism.2 Developmentalism, of course, remains a dominant discourse today. So one might argue that in a general sense the legacy of abolitionism continues to shape how Western governments and aid agencies deal with Africa (and, not infrequently, how the African governments with which they partner deal with their citizens), insofar as they act from a perceived obligation to impose modernity and progress on a backward part of the world. Y et although such connections to the historicist discourses of latterday rulers are relatively easy to trace, the same cannot be said for the tangled threads that tie abolitionism to twentieth-century popular political thought. But the connections are plainly there, and reconstructing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAbolitionism and Imperialism in Britain, Africa, and the Atlantic
PublisherOhio University Press
Number of pages32
ISBN (Print)9780821419021
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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