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European Abolition Of Slavery: The Legacy Of Literature, Media, And Censorship

1065 words - 5 pages

The British abolished the slave trade in 1807 and slavery in 1833; however, the French did not abolish slavery until 1848, due to many differences between the two countries, especially during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The British generally understood the mindset of their slaves to a greater extent than the French, and by showing the British people the horrors of slavery they abolished it fifteen years before the French. According to Hochschild, the British were able to sustain a powerful and successful abolition movement because of their superior, widespread media and literature, and their complete absence of censorship. On the other hand, France lacked these stimuli for abolishing slavery, and they were also preoccupied with their own French Revolution of 1789 and the Haitian Revolution of 1791. Also, the monarchy before the French Revolution used royal censors, and after Napoleon took power in 1802, he employed an overwhelming amount of censorship that fully stifled the growth of literacy and prevented the spread of media and abolition literature in France. France's abolition movement was slower to develop than Britain's because the French citizens did not possess as much knowledge about slavery due to censorship, an inferior media system, and less widespread abolition literature, causing the population to have less motivation for the abolition of slavery.

With France going through a period of rapid changes from a monarchy to a democracy to a dictatorship, their literature and media were slower to develop and spread than Britain’s. Britain experienced a huge growth in the number of newspapers, especially daily publications, and it even began to have some established news outlets while France was still in political upheavel. Hochschild mentions that the British had a dozen newspapers in London, and forty-nine other newspapers in the rest of Britain in the 1780s. However, France’s first daily newspaper, Le Journal de Paris, was not published until 1777. On top of having superior media, Britain also boasted over one hundred libraries in London alone and over a thousand bookstores in the country, meanwhile France did not have as many libraries or bookstores because they did not have nearly the abundance of published books, due to their heavy censorship. Britain’s plenitude of easily accessible, completely uncensored literature created a plethora of abolition literature for British readers; however, France lacked all this literature, and therefore was not able to become as knowledgeable about the horrors of slavery.

The French also faced much stronger censorship than the British because of the monarchy and Napoleon Bonaparte. With this effective censorship came a restraint to the growth of literacy, and a drop in the amount of published media and literature, causing the French public to not have enough knowledge of slavery to feel an urge to abolish it. In general, French people were sheltered from the problems of the...

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