The Political Economy of Colonisation: Carl Bernhard Wadström’s Case for Abolition and Civilisation


  • Jonas Ahlskog



anti-slavery, colonisation, Africa, political economy, eighteenth-century


This article is an analysis of the Swedish abolitionist and Swedenborgian Carl Bernhard Wadström’s (1746–1799) writings in the British anti-slavery debate in the years between 1788 and 1795. Previous historical scholarship has seen Wadström primarily as a Swedenborgian visionary on a quest for religious fulfilment in Africa. An alternative perspective on Wadström’s writings is offered in this article by highlighting his comparatively overlooked polemical publications and Parliamentary testimonies in the British anti-slavery debate. Instead of treating Wadström’s writings and colonial plans as manifestations of his Swedenborgian dreams, they are reassessed as contributions to the contemporary anti-slavery debate. The focus is on how Wadström participated and argued in this debate in order to show the ideological tenets underlying his views. Wadström is linked to the Scottish Enlightenment discourse by showing how he uses the concepts of classical political economy in his argumentation for the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. Through this alternative reading of Wadström’s writings, it is possible to gain another entry point into the complex and motley character of late eighteenth-century political thought in Northern Europe.


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Author Biography

Jonas Ahlskog

Executive director of the Finno-Swedish educational organisation Folkets Bildningsförbund r.f. in Turku, Finland.






Peer-reviewed articles