Disposal of an old orthodoxy reading Eric Williams' dissertation
The publication of Eric Williams' 1938 Oxford doctoral dissertation makes his thesis widely available for the first time. It provides an opportunity for reading the dissertation with a fresh eye unfiltered by the misleading interpretation advanced by the British imperial historian, Howard Temperley. Fundamental to Williams' argument is the particular role of the Haitian Revolution in shaping the momentum toward British abolition of the slave trade. It is argued here, unlike the position taken by Temperley, that there is no substantive difference between Williams' analysis of the causes of British abolition in his dissertation and in his classic work, Capitalism and Slavery (1944).