The Axe Laid To The Root – The Story of Robert Wedderburn

Robert Wedderburn was one of the key campaigners against slavery at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

He was born in 1762 in Jamaica of a Scottish father and a Jamaican mother. At the age of sixteen he went to sea and ended up in England, where he became a tailor and eventually joined a radical political group called the Spenceans. Wedderburn became famous for the revolutionary rhetoric with which he entertained and educated the crowds at Hopkins Street Chapel. He campaigned for equality in England, the land to be restored to the people, and freedom for the slaves in the West Indies.

Much of the Black experience in Britain, however, has been hidden from history. This book will help rectify the situation in an entertaining and informative way. It tells the story of Wedderburn's childhood in Jamaica and his experience of slavery, his conversion to Methodism in England and then his commitment to radical politics, which landed him in prison for two years. The Home Secretary called him a 'notorious firebrand' and his oratory was so powerful that he was put on the Government's secret list of 33 leading reformers.

Did you know…

  • By the end of the eighteenth century there were about 20,000 black people in England (proportionately far more than in 1953!).
  • During the Napoleonic Wars up to a quarter of the British Navy was black.

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