Thomas Sowell

 "Bury the Chains" carries this incredible story forward only to the time of the banning of slavery in the British Empire. One can only hope that either Adam Hochschild or someone else writes an equally dramatic and compelling book on the saga of the worldwide struggle against slavery.

 Chances do not look good. The anti-slavery movement was spearheaded by people who would today be called "the religious right" and its organization was created by conservative businessmen. Moreover, what destroyed slavery in the non-Western world was Western imperialism.

 Nothing could be more jolting and discordant with the vision of today's intellectuals than the fact that it was businessmen, devout religious leaders and Western imperialists who together destroyed slavery around the world. And if it doesn't fit their vision, it is the same to them as if it never happened.

 As anti-slavery ideas eventually spread throughout Western civilization, a worldwide struggle pitted the West against Africans, Arabs, Asians and virtually the entire non-Western world, which still saw nothing wrong with slavery. But Western imperialists had gunpowder weapons first and that enabled the West to stamp out slavery in other societies as well as in its own.

 The review of "Bury the Chains" in the New York Times tried to suggest that the ban against the international slave trade somehow served British self-interest. But John Stuart Mill, who lived in those times, said that the British "for the last half-century have spent annual sums equal to the revenue of a small kingdom in blockading the Africa coast, for a cause in which we not only had no interest, but which was contrary to our pecuniary interest."

 It was a worldwide epic struggle, full of dramatic and sometimes violent episodes, along with inspiring stories of courage and dedication. But do not expect Hollywood to make a movie about anything so contrary to their vision of the world.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate