The slave trade

Was Josiah Wedgwood really a radical?

No wonder Josiah Wedgwood, the 18th-century master potter, was a darling of the Victorians. From W.E. Gladstone to Samuel Smiles of Self-Help fame, they admired this industrious, inventive, uxorious and religious man as a harbinger of their own age. It surely helped that his story, if not exactly one of rags to riches, was certainly a tale of triumph over adversity. His biggest obstacle was one he did his best to conceal from a carefully constructed public image. Though Joshua Reynolds painted his portrait and George Stubbs did a family study showing Josiah, his wife Sarah and their seven children in the grounds of his country house, Etruria Hall, neither

The British Empire is now the subject on which the sun never sets

Wrestling with the history of the British Empire is the unfinished and unfinishable project of our history. Time’s Monster takes a meta-approach to this. Its author Priya Satia has read widely, and has written essentially a cultural history of the Empire from the early modern period to today, of the way Britain’s colonial expansion has been interwoven with the culture. Many of the connections she draws are intriguing and her narrative is nuanced enough to be sympathetic to both pro- and anti-imperial arguments past and present. But overlaying this is a discussion of how historians themselves have shaped the perception of the Empire, acting as boosters, or at least as

A power for good: the Sharp family were a model of vision and humanitarianism

Who would imagine that Johann Zoffany’s celebrated 1780 depiction of the extensive Sharp family happily making music on their pleasure barge could be parsed so deftly into a portrait of an age? Or that Hester Grant, embarking upon her research, could have foreseen how topical Granville Sharp’s determined champaign against slavery would seem at the present moment? Or that his surgeon brother William’s new-fangled passion for ‘variolation’ or vaccination (against smallpox in those days) should strike such a chord today? What a family, and what an age: the seven Sharp siblings not only helped refashion the 18th-century world around them, as the subtitle of Grant’s book suggests, but the causes