Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves


Nothing short of inspiring, this is the fiercely compelling tale of what is surely the mother-of-all civil rights movements—the drive to rid the world of human slavery.

Twelve men come together to take on a social evil that the great majority of their countrymen see as part of the very “nature of things.” Even more daunting was the fact that so much of English wealth, from import-export shipping, manufacturing and overseas plantations, was based on a slave-economy. Although they drew heavily on the experience of the Quakers, the men had little experience in social protest and civic reform. However, coming together at the end of their work days, they built this successful movement. In the process, they developed a number of the tools, such as direct mail appeals, which are used now around the world to advance various causes. The individual life stories of men such as Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce are moving testimonies to what men of good will can accomplish, particularly when they band together to bring about social change.

Adam Hochschild has written a book that is a marvelous example of scholarship and carefully detailed annotation seamlessly melded into a gripping story. The embedded message within the pages of this work clearly suggests that there are still evils in our world that we have taken for granted and which are just waiting for men and women of energy and good will to take on. Someone reading this awakening account couldn’t help but say to him or herself, “Let me look at my world afresh and consider if I can alleviate some of the suffering I now see around me.”

—Kevin Ryan, 2006 finalist judge

2006 Nonfiction Runner-Up

Photo of Adam Hochschild

Adam Hochschild
Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the
Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves

Adam Hochschild was born in New York City in 1942. His first book, Half the Way Home: a Memoir of Father and Son, was published in 1986. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times called it “an extraordinarily moving portrait of the complexities and confusions of familial love...firmly grounded in the specifics of a particular time and place, conjuring them up with Proustian detail and affection.” It was followed by The Mirror at Midnight: a South African Journey, and The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin. His 1997 collection, Finding the Trapdoor: Essays, Portraits, Travels, won the PEN/Spielvogel- Diamonstein Award for the Art of the Essay. King Leopold’s Ghost: a Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa was a finalist for the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award. It also won a J. Anthony Lukas award in the United States, and the Duff Cooper Prize in England.

His books have been translated into twelve languages and four of them have been named Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review. His Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves, was a finalist for the 2005 National Book Award in Nonfiction and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History. His last two books have also each won Canada’s Lionel Gelber Prize for the best book on international affairs and the Gold Medal of the California Book Awards. In 2005, he received a Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction.

Hochschild has written for The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, Granta, The New York Times Magazine, and many other newspapers and magazines. His articles have won prizes from the Overseas Press Club, the Society of Professional Journalists and elsewhere. He was a co-founder of Mother Jones magazine and has been a commentator on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” Hochschild has taught narrative writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, and spent half a year as a Fulbright Lecturer in India. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, sociologist and author Arlie Russell Hochschild. They have two sons and one granddaughter.


Implementation and ongoing support by Digital Stationery International, LLC