Colonialism, race and slavery in Raynal’s Histoire des deux Indes
Title: Colonialism, race and slavery in Raynal’s Histoire des deux Indes
Author: THOMSON, Ann
Citation: Global intellectual history, 2017, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 251-267
ISSN: 2380-1883; 2380-1891
Abbé Guillaume-Thomas Raynal’s Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes, generally known as the Histoire des deux Indes, one of the best-sellers of the Eighteenth Century, has frequently been characterized as an anticolonial work. This article shows instead its complexity and internal inconsistencies, explained in part by the context and manner of its composition and Raynal’s links to ministerial circles. It studies the work’s description of the African continent and European trade on the West coast and its treatment of explanations for the Africans’ skin colour, as well as Diderot’s famous denunciation of the slave trade, and analyses the changes these passages undergo in the course of the work’s different editions (from 1770 to 1820). By looking beyond Denis Diderot’s impassioned denunciations of the slave trade and of European treatment of extra-European peoples, we gain a better understanding of the complexity of thinking about European expansion and human diversity in the Eighteenth Century.
First published online: 30 August 2017
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