But this is not yet another 'white saviour' story, for it challenges established perspectives about British slavery and colonialism, and in particular the myth that has often been taught in schools: that Britain's role in slavery was as the abolisher. We see the rebellion unfold through the eyes of four people: the enslaved man Jack Gladstone, the missionary John Smith, the colonist John Cheveley, and the politician and slaveholder John Gladstone, father of a future Prime Minister. As with a fast-paced thriller, the book is split into three parts - Arrival, Rebellion and Trial - culminating in a courtroom drama and its momentous consequences.
There is also a contemporary strand. Written in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd and the toppling of the Edward Colston statue, WHITE DEBT attempts to answer the following questions: What is the impact of British slavery today? And what, if anything, should we do about it? In the unique style of his highly acclaimed and bestselling THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE and HANNS AND RUDOLF, Thomas Harding tells a broad history through a small number of characters. He dramatically reveals how the everyday cruelty of slavery still devastates lives; how history is personal.
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