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Slavery, Cruelty, and the Rise of Humanitarianism Margaret Abruzzo In andthe United States Congress apologized for the "fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery.
Abolitionists denounced the inhumanity of slavery, while proslavery activists proclaimed it both just and humane. Margaret Abruzzo delves deeply into the slavery debate to better understand the nature and development of humanitarianism and how the slavery issue helped shape modern concepts of human responsibility for the suffering of others.
Abruzzo first traces the slow, indirect growth in the eighteenth century of moral objections to slavery's cruelty, which took root in awareness of the moral danger of inflicting unnecessary pain. Rather than accept pain as inescapable, as had earlier generations, people fought to ease, discredit, and abolish it.
Within a century, this new humanitarian sensibility had made immoral the wanton infliction of pain. Abruzzo next examines how this modern understanding of humanity and pain played out in the slavery debate. Drawing on shared moral-philosophical concepts, particularly sympathy and benevolence, pro- and antislavery writers voiced starkly opposing views of humaneness.
Understanding this contest over the meaning of humanity—and its ability to serve varied, even contradictory purposes—illuminates the role of pain in morality. Margaret Abruzzo is an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama.
The research [is] impeccable and it [is] organized in a very readable and easy to grasp fashion. Her book will fascinate not only scholars exploring slavery and sectionalism but also historians examining the emergence of new definitions of cruelty and benevolence at the advent of the modern world.
Abruzzo has written a richly detailed history not easily captured by the limited space of this review.
The result is an important book that is well researched and impressively argued, and that greatly advances our knowledge about the national quarrel about slavery through the language of humanitarianism.
It is widely applicable and will surely find a diverse audience. It is a very illuminating book. Slavery, Cruelty, and the Rise of Humanitarianism will interest scholars of pro- and antislavery thought as well as humanitarianism.
Polemical Pain makes an important contribution. Moniz - Journal of the Early Republic "An important work of scholarship, especially for those interested in the history of slavery or humanitarian reform.
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