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This report aims to assess (1) what factors led the British government to abolish the transatlantic Slave trade in 1807 and then human chattel slavery in 1833, and (2) what those findings suggest about how modern social movements should strategize.While many of the implications are generalizable to a variety of movements, the analysis will focus on applications to the movement against animal farming.
In this classic analysis and refutation of Eric Williams's 1944 thesis, Seymour Drescher argues that Britain's abolition of the slave trade in 1807 resulted not from the diminishing value of slavery for Great Britain but instead from the British public's mobilization against the slave trade, which forced London to commit what Drescher terms "econocide." This action, he argues, was detrimental to Britain's economic interests at a time when British slavery was actually at the height of its potential.
The focus of this report is on strategic insights for the movement against animal farming, but we will discuss some insights for the broader animal rights movement, and these insights may be useful for other movements as well.
Historically, many people have compared Slavery and various forms of nonhuman commodification in rough, oversimplified, and sometimes even vindictive ways without considering the impact of that comparison on one or both oppressed populations.
Key implications include the need to focus on institutional change, the circumstances under which strategic reforms can facilitate the eventual elimination of the institution, and what messaging can best generate support.
— and more specifically, human chattel slavery — was not a new phenomenon in the time of the transatlantic Slave trade, which started in the early 16th century and lasted through the mid-19th century.
After providing this history, the report will draw conclusions about which strategies seemed to be most effective for the movement and propose tentative implications for the movement against animal farming.
Studying successful movements of the past can provide invaluable insights into the most effective strategies for modern movements.