Written within the framework originally established by Eric Williams, Nick Draper's book The Price of Emancipation analyzes the £20 million compensation paid to slave owners by the British state in the 1830s, showing that 5 to 10 percent of the British elites of the time were involved as recipients of the money in their own right or on behalf of other beneficiaries. Stimulated by commentaries by Christer Petley and Susan Thorne on the book, this piece explores what it means to deploy Eric Williams's historical work in Capitalism and Slavery outside the context of the political intervention in which that work was embedded and reflects on the extent to which studies such as The Price of Emancipation that privilege as their subject matter white metropolitan elites in Britain can do anything other than reinforce inequalities of access to information, to resources, and to the opportunities of recovering histories that matter.

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