Amazing Grace : William Wilberforce and the heroic campaign to end slavery

by Eric Metaxas

Paperback, 2007



Call number




Oxford : Monarch, 2007.

User reviews

LibraryThing member whjensen
A good book. Gave a good counterpoint to other Wilberforce books I've read. Compared to William Wilberforce: A Hero For Humanity, this book ofcused on creating a narrative whereas the previously read book contains text of speeches and letters as proofs of the contentions. This also follows a more traditional chronological order rather than an topic-based organization. If I had to choose one, this is a good primer on Wilberforce but I'd encourage reading both!

Interestingly, it showed the importance of reading multiple overlapping histories in a single time period. I have recently read Rough Crossings by Simon Schama. They both have extensive treatments of the Thorntons and Macaulay in regards to Sierra Leone. While Metaxas comes off very sympathetic to these Clapham saints, Schama is less impressed. To be honest, Schama seems to lack an understanding of what this group was trying to achieve and reads it through the filter of later 20th century. However, he does bring up the issues of paternalism that was exhibited to a certain extent by members of the abolitionist movement that is largely ignored in the Metaxas bok.
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
This 2007 biography is of the wholly admirable William Wilberforce, who undertook in 1785 to have the slave trade banned and struggled to achieve that for 20 years, the prohibition of it coming in 1807. Wilberforce was in Parliament nearly 50 years and three days before he died slavery was forbidden in the British Empire--though owners of slaves were compensated for half of the slaves' value. The book relies on earlier biographies of Wilberforce and is didactic and wholly hagiographical as far as Wilberforce is concerned. I would have liked more detail in regard to the parliamentary efforts, e.g., could a member simply bring a bill up for debate, or was there some system which would bring the matter before Commons? The book is not very explanatory of procedure, but one must rejoice when Wilberforce's aims are achieved. The book tends to be didactic and hagiographical as to Wilberforce, though there is little doubt that Wilberforce is a most admirable figure in the history of Britain and the world.… (more)
LibraryThing member pinknpeach
This book was a little slow starting but I really enjoyed it. It shows the amazing way that God weaves people in and out of one's life using them to accomplish his purposes. Wilberforce had and incredbile life and was used mightily by God. It really reminded me how one person can make a hug difference.
LibraryThing member debs4jc
This is a biography of the man who almost single-handedly ended the slave trade in Britian. This may seem to be a lofty claim, but after reading this book you will realize how important a figure Wilberforce was and how history would be much different without him. The book goes chronologically through his life, presenting quite a detailed portrait of him as a youth, young politician, converted politician, and Christian activist. Of note is that this is the book that the recent movie Amazing Grace was based on.
My Thoughts: I learned so much that I didn't know about Wilberforce and the England of his times. It was a bit dry at times, but I'm glad I read it and I found Wilberforces' life inspiring--the way he did so much good with his life is certainly a worthy example to follow.
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LibraryThing member derekstaff
In his attempt to be congenial and engaging, Metaxas comes off as far too casual. He also seemed more concerned with championing Christianity than with exploring the full dimensions of Wilberforce's life. The scholarship felt shakey. Metaxas made a number of questionable historical statements, again usually in promoting a specifically Christian perspective. Wilberforce Wilberforce is definitely a man worth reading about, but I cannot recommend this biography.… (more)
LibraryThing member RogerRamjet
William Wilberforce lived a fascinating and inspiring life. Unfortunately, this book fell far short of matching the caliber of its subject matter. The writing style showed no sign of an editor. Almost every sentence appeared hastily written. The author, who I understand is a humorist by background, would often insert jokes or plays on words that were at best distracting and at worst embarassing in a what is supposed to be a serious biography. His frequent use of hyperbole rather than accurate description wass equally off-putting. The author is obviously deeply sympathetic to Wilberforce's conversion to Methodism, which I can understand. I don't expect the book to be completely impartial, but the failure to make any effort at a balanced picture makes this more of a tract than a biography. The author's research seemed shallow. One wonders whether he looked at any primary sources or was simply relying on other biographies, which must have been better written. I see that several other Wilberforce biographies are currently available. I will be looking to one of them for access to the real Wilberforce.… (more)
LibraryThing member Steve777
A very inspiring story of a man passionate for God, passionate for the freedom of the slaves, and delightful to be around. Oh that those of us today who share Wilberforce's passions could be a blessing to those who disagree, as he was.
LibraryThing member LynnB
Willaim Wilberforce was a man of amazing grace: generous in the sense of giving of his time and efforts, and in his faith in people to do the right thing.

This biography looks at Mr. Wilberforce's life and, in particular, his fight to end slavery. It is very well written, with many witty turns of phrase. The author has obviously researched his subject well, and equally obviously is a major William Wilberforce admirer.

I had not heard of Mr. Wilberforce before reading this book and am surprised that his outstanding contribution to the world is not more widely taught in schools and more generally know. This book makes an important contribution.
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LibraryThing member DianeS
I'd give this a quarter of a star if it was available. I had to stop in the middle of the first part of this book. I was really hoping to hear a biography. Instead I got a religious tract promoting Methodism and implying strongly that the Church of England are not Christians. Not being a Christian myself, this is an area I'm not interested in to begin with, and it killed any interest I had in learning about this man.… (more)
LibraryThing member LeslieHurd
Amazing Grace was wonderful! It provided a good picture of the society in which William Wilberforce lived and how unusual it was for the British at the time to actually live as Christians rather than pay the lip service most gave to the Church of England. Wilberforce had an early exposure to the Methodist faith but fell away in his teen and college years at Oxford. He partied hard and studied little. But he reconnected with men and women of faith and over a period of time developed a living faith. That faith convinced him that all men were equal in God's sight and his great 28-year fight for the abolition of the slave trade began. He personally knew John Newton and John Wesley, was the best friend of William Pitt, who became prime minister at 24, and met Napoleon and Marie Antoinette before the revolution. The book is filled with great heart and great history. It's also one of the few books I've read in forever that required me to pull out my dictionary.… (more)
LibraryThing member edhouseholder
Truly inspiring. A tremendous example of living out the Christian faith.
LibraryThing member the4otts
Metaxas delivers again! After reading John Newton by Jonathan Aitken years ago (one of my top 5 favorite books), I just had to read this book. Wilberforce was a friend of John Newton (wrote the hymn Amazing Grace)and William Cowper (wrote the musical score to Amazing Grace) You will be delighted with the man Metaxas brings to life. Wilberforce is a real guy, with some extraordinary character traits - one of which is clearly patience as well as tenacity. A great read for everyone ages 15+.

I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Metaxas speak when he introduced his new book (at the time), 7 Men. He is an engaging speaker - the kind of individual you would want to invite home for dinner and lively conversation. He has quite the sense of humor and electric wit! He autographed the two books I had - and they are my treasures!

Anxious to read Miracles by Metaxas and whatever else this storyteller has planned.
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LibraryThing member olongbourn
William Wilberforce is a completely and utterly AMAZING man in British and even American history!!! To learn what he had accomplished made this book very interesting. Eric Metaxas, on the other hand, wrote this with such a bend toward Christianity and "selling" the glories of God that I would NOT recommend this book. If it were rating the subject matter, this book would receive 5 stars, but the author fails epically by inserting too much praise and glory of God.… (more)
LibraryThing member HGButchWalker
I came to this book primarily because I was so affected by Mr. Metaxas' book on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that I wanted to read more of his work. My exposure to Wilberforce had been primarily through the movie of the same title and wasn't sure if I was getting a manuscript that would simply be a retelling of the same story or something new.
It is something new.

As with Bonhoeffer, I have come away from this book with another new spiritual hero in William Wilberforce. In him we find a man whose faith translated into action in a way that should move us all. In an era where it is easy to be cynical about politicians, Wilberforce shows us the power that a man of principle can have when he is willing to persevere through the slings and arrows. Eric Metaxas writing ability makes this an even greater joy. Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member dasam
A fairly decent biography, written in an anachronistic style. The main trouble I have is the Metaxas sides so fully with his biographical subject that he whitewashes Wilberforce's chauvinism and somewhat patronizing attitudes to wards Indians, for example. Still, worth reading.
LibraryThing member vanjr
A good, easy to read biography of a guy most of us do not even know about. I have not read other biographies of Wilberforce, so they may be as good as this or better. This is a 5 star read because of Wiberforce. There were some author in sites towards the end that were worthwhile as well.
LibraryThing member bookworm12
Wilberforce was quite a man. After becoming a Christian he dedicated the rest of his life to helping the less fortunate people in the world. He is remembered for his fight to end the British slave trade in England in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The trade was awful on so many levels, but one of the worst aspects was the blatant disregard for the lives of the slaves themselves. You would think that they would at least be kept healthy because they were considered valuable property. Unfortunately, something slave traders could make more money by throwing the slaves overboard to drown and then collecting the insurance money, just horrific.

This biography reminded me so much the recent Thomas Jefferson biography I read. Both were avid readers and intellectuals who did some incredible things in their lives. They lived life to the fullest, always wanting to do more and to help everyone that they could.

One striking thing about Wilberforce’s life was the constraint strain of sickness that hindered his actions. Instead of using his physical ailments as an excuse to do less, he powered through them, sometimes near death, and achieved more than most of us will in our entire lives.

It was also disturbing to hear how corrupt and England was during that time period. The slave trade was not the only deplorable things happening during that century. Prostitution was at an all-time high. The average age of the prostitutes was 16 and 25 % of unmarried women were prostitutes! One of the main forms of entertainment was called bull baiting. The breed of bulldogs was actually created as the perfect type of dog that could be trained to attack bulls until they would fight back.

BOTTOM LINE: A powerful biography about a man who gets very little recognition. Highly recommended along with the other Metaxas biography on Bonheoffer.

Pair with a viewing of the film version of the book Amazing Grace and The Madness of King George. I rarely recommend pairing a book with the movie version, but in this case I think the film makes Wilberforce a bit more emotionally accessible. The other film focuses on the disease which strikes the King during that time period. His medical case and the resulting political upheaval are mentioned multiple times in the book. It had a direct impact of the fight against slavery because the leadership was in question at the time.
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