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William Wilberforce: A Biography

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William Wilberforce's name will forever be associated with the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. This lively biography includes primary documentation about the experience of slaves and slave traders. Drawing on his experience as a journalist and a church historian, Tomkins' book traces Wilberforce's early years as the son of a wealthy merchant family in Hull and William Wilberforce's name will forever be associated with the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. This lively biography includes primary documentation about the experience of slaves and slave traders. Drawing on his experience as a journalist and a church historian, Tomkins' book traces Wilberforce's early years as the son of a wealthy merchant family in Hull and his dissolute life in Cambridge. Following his work as an MP under Pitt and his evangelical conversion, he became a campaigner for public morality and led the parliamentary movement for the abolition of slavery. The book covers the formation of the "Clapham Sect" and the passing of the Anti-Slave trade act, up to Wilberforce's death just 3 days after the final reading of the Emancipation Bill.


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William Wilberforce's name will forever be associated with the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. This lively biography includes primary documentation about the experience of slaves and slave traders. Drawing on his experience as a journalist and a church historian, Tomkins' book traces Wilberforce's early years as the son of a wealthy merchant family in Hull and William Wilberforce's name will forever be associated with the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. This lively biography includes primary documentation about the experience of slaves and slave traders. Drawing on his experience as a journalist and a church historian, Tomkins' book traces Wilberforce's early years as the son of a wealthy merchant family in Hull and his dissolute life in Cambridge. Following his work as an MP under Pitt and his evangelical conversion, he became a campaigner for public morality and led the parliamentary movement for the abolition of slavery. The book covers the formation of the "Clapham Sect" and the passing of the Anti-Slave trade act, up to Wilberforce's death just 3 days after the final reading of the Emancipation Bill.

30 review for William Wilberforce: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kpent

    Well-rounded look at an important man, politician, and Christian. In spite of or because of Wilberforce's humanness, as Tompkins portrayed it, I am eager to read his books still in print. This is a hard book to put down!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Loraine

    This book was one included in our Women's Reading Program for Church. I know the story behind William Wilberforce's 20 year legislative battle to outlaw slavery in England. I thought it would be a fascinating read but found it rather pedantic and finally gave up about 1/2 way through. The style of writing could not keep my attention even through I gave it a good try.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Graham

    Another excellent book about another excellent person. A must read. Wilberforce is a hero of mine. He really had a heart of gold . His steadfast and righteous work on the abolition of slavery and his fight against animal cruelty are a beacon of goodness.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Thiero

    it was boring and really hard to read

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian Eshleman

    Even in a 200 page overview, the author brings the subject's considerable depth to life. Could be a good entry point to learn more about him or the dramatic age in which he lived.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ian Callagy

    William Wilberforce died 139 years - to the day - before I was born. He is the gentleman most closely associated with securing the abolition of the slave trade. Born on 25 August 1759, Wilberforce was the son of a Christian couple and lived for much of his life in Hull. Religion - for many of that era - played a big part in his life and he was, we learn from Stephen Tomkins' book, a man of deep moral and ethical decency. He was also a deep thinker, despite not being a great student. Rather William Wilberforce died 139 years - to the day - before I was born. He is the gentleman most closely associated with securing the abolition of the slave trade. Born on 25 August 1759, Wilberforce was the son of a Christian couple and lived for much of his life in Hull. Religion - for many of that era - played a big part in his life and he was, we learn from Stephen Tomkins' book, a man of deep moral and ethical decency. He was also a deep thinker, despite not being a great student. Rather paradoxically (and no doubt perplexing to many), despite being an ardent opponent of slavery he was unmoved by workers rights. This had the effect of making himself enemies on both the Whig and Tory benches of the House of Commons. Although he was a man of considerable wealth and, we read, he had a privileged existence, this was not lost on Wilberforce - he was aware of his fortunate position in life. Moreover he sought to use his position for the betterment of society. Despite angering many MP's I believe he skillfully played the game of politics in order to achieve his goals. Integrity is the word I would probably use to describe this type of person. Although we are examining events of history (and therefore do not have the luxury of first hand accounts) it can be deduced that Wilberforce was a man of great energy and determination. He was driven to right wrongs and fight injustices. But he knew that he needed the support of those at the top to be sure of success. His friendship with William Pitt The Younger was key and this alliance - although by no means always harmonious - gained Wilberforce credibility. One must also understand the times in which he lived in. Religion was still an extremely potent weapon in the England (indeed most of Europe) of the 18th and 19th centuries. Faith went beyond simply belief in God, it meant living by a strict moral code. This governed everything that Wilberforce did and added to his reputation. Reading Tomkin's well written book on the life of Wilberforce, one wonders who today could come nearest the latter's crusade for a better society. Many are put off by religious dogma and the hypocrisy of many forms of organised religion (notably the Catholic Church) has helped destroy our faith in the goodness that religion can bring. In the early 21st century, it has become fashionable to say one is an athiest or non religious - for very understandable reasons. Perhaps if more religious figures had used their influence to better the world, instead of merely preaching, religion would be in a better place today. In recent weeks Cardinal Pell in Australia was put on trial for sexual abuse of children. No doubt if William Wilberforce were alive today and heard about the Pell case he would be appalled. Religion has been very badly served by many within its ranks. Today more than ever men such as Wilberforce are needed in this world. In both the political and religious spheres, his contributions deserve to be remembered and revered. In times a lot less enlightened than today Wilberforce achieved titanic social change that must have required deep resources of moral courage. It is truly extraordinary to read of the life of one of the greatest Englishmen to ever have lived. In conclusion, the struggles that Wilberforce and his associates went through to eventually get slavery banned were immense and took years to enact. Several key moments along the way helped ease the passage for the Abolitionists. Tomkins writes that Pitt The Younger's death in 1806 made it easier for Wilberforce. But for this reader it seems it was the Act of Union (itself introduced some years earlier by Pitt) that was pivotal. The Act, it could be said was the undoing of the British wing of the slave trade. Why? Because it swelled the membership of the House of Commons and it brought the Irish members to Westminster. This had the effect of diluting the hitherto formidable political potency of the Tory/Whig parliament. When the Bill to abolish slavery was put before the Houses in 1807 it was passed and eventually received Royal ascent. There is little doubt that the contribution of Ireland's MP's played a large part in Wilberforce's triumph. As an Irishman and passionate believer in human rights it makes me proud that my country had a strong hand in abolishing one of the greatest injustices the world has ever known.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Geozla

    La biografía de William Wilberforce por Stephen Tomkins. El escritor hizo un buen trabajo en resumir la vida inspiradora de Wilberforce, un hombre que a pesar de la época en la que vivía decidió dar lo mejor de sí y luchar con su intelecto y dinero por los principios de la libertad de aquellos más necesitados.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steven Hancock

    An overall terrific biography of one of the most prominent figures in the abolitionist movement in Britain, and the trials he and his compatriots faced. Grade: A-

  9. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Avoids hagiography, and provides a good, concise introduction. The story of Wilberforce's role in abolition is, in many ways, "if you at first you don't succeed ... "

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    It was insightful. In Wilberforce's day 75% of the world's population was in some form of slavery.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Layla

    A concise and interesting account of the life of a very interesting man. Reading this book has prompted me to search for further history of the Enlightenment and Methodism.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andy Anderson

    Quick read on Wilberforce. Anything about him is normally a good read. What a laborer during his life. Hard to believe what he accomplished with no computer or technology... Amazing....

  13. 5 out of 5

    Krista

  14. 5 out of 5

    Yusuf Uğur

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Engle

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kaywin Cottle

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cami

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chris Rousell

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alyse

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Francis

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jemma

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rob Messenger

    A thoughtful approach to the big events and motivations of Wilberforce's life.

  25. 5 out of 5

    J&H

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dw

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dave Clarke

  28. 4 out of 5

    Talitha

    It kept my interest, despite being historical.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ben

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