William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery
by Eric Metaxas
Wilberforce was quite a man. After becoming a Christian he dedicated the rest of his life to helping the less fortunate people in the world. He is remembered for his fight to end the British slave trade in England in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The trade was awful on so many levels, but one of the worst aspects was the blatant disregard for the lives of the slaves themselves. You would think that they would at least be kept healthy because they were considered valuable property. Unfortunately, something slave traders could make more money by throwing the slaves overboard to drown and then collecting the insurance money, just horrific.
This biography reminded me so much the recent Thomas Jefferson biography I read. Both were avid readers and intellectuals who did some incredible things in their lives. They lived life to the fullest, always wanting to do more and to help everyone that they could.
One striking thing about Wilberforce’s life was the constraint strain of sickness that hindered his actions. Instead of using his physical ailments as an excuse to do less, he powered through them, sometimes near death, and achieved more than most of us will in our entire lives.
It was also disturbing to hear how corrupt and England was during that time period. The slave trade was not the only deplorable things happening during that century. Prostitution was at an all-time high. The average age of the prostitutes was 16 and 25 % of unmarried women were prostitutes! One of the main forms of entertainment was called bull baiting. The breed of bulldogs was actually created as the perfect type of dog that could be trained to attack bulls until they would fight back.
BOTTOM LINE: A powerful biography about a man who gets very little recognition. Highly recommended along with the other Metaxas biography on Bonheoffer.
Pair with a viewing of the film version of the book Amazing Grace and The Madness of King George. I rarely recommend pairing a book with the movie version, but in this case I think the film makes Wilberforce a bit more emotionally accessible. The other film focuses on the disease which strikes the King during that time period. His medical case and the resulting political upheaval are mentioned multiple times in the book. It had a direct impact of the fight against slavery because the leadership was in question at the time.