Open main menu

Seymour Drescher is an American historian and a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, known for his studies on Alexis de Tocqueville and Slavery.

Seymour Drescher has been publishing since 1959.He was born in 1934 in Bronx, New York. He initially focused his research on Tocqueville. He pioneered in attracting scholarly attention to Tocqueville's views of problems of poverty, colonial slavery, and race. He was the first scholar to investigate the central role of England in Tocqueville's political thought. Of his work in this field, Tocqueville scholar, Matthew Mancini, author of a comprehensive survey of Tocqueville and American intellectuals (2006), calls Seymour Drescher "arguably the finest Tocqueville scholar writing in English...."

Drescher's more recent historical studies have been primarily in the history of slavery and abolition in the Atlantic world. One of his most dogged critics acknowledged the power of his argumentation (2002), comparing him in this respect to Adam Smith, author of the classic Wealth of Nations.[This quote needs a citation] According to Yale's David Brion Davis, Drescher is "the historian who [in Econocide, 1979] demolished the long-standing thesis that British abolitionists succeeded only because the slave colonies were in a state of irreversible decline." (2002) However, Drescher ends his study of the British Caribbean in 1822, and does not address the decline of the British sugar industry highlighted by Williams, which began in the mid-1820s, and continued until the emancipation of the slaves in the 1830s. The majority of the Eric Williams thesis, which addresses the decline of the sugar industry in the 1820s, the emancipation of the slaves in the 1830s, and the sugar equalisation acts of the 1840s, has not been refuted or undermined.[1]



Selected worksEdit

  • Econocide: British Slavery in the Era of Abolition, Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977
  • From Slavery to Freedom: Comparative Studies in the Rise and the Fall of Atlantic Slavery, New York, New York University Press, 1999
  • The Mighty Experiment: Free Labor versus Slavery in British Emancipation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002
  • Abolition - A History of Slavery and Antislavery, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2009 ISBN 978-0-521-60085-9 and ISBN 978-0-521-84102-3


Drescher's most original contribution to the study of antislavery has been his attention to the role of petitions after the 1780s, petitions that served to rally working-class support for the antislavery movement. . . . Another important contribution made by Drescher to the study of abolition is his work in placing the British experience in comparative perspective, focusing on some different questions than do other scholars also making comparisons of slavery and antislavery. . . . In addition to his important work on British abolition. . . he has written on two new questions arising from the present stage of black-Jewish relations in the United States, the role of the Jews in the transatlantic slave trade, and the comparative barbarism of two great moral evils, the slave trade and the Holocaust. . . . (Stanley L. Engerman, 1999)


  1. ^ Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (University of North Carolina Press, 1944).