Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Lisa Cody

Reader 2

Gary Hamburg


This thesis interrogated the relationship between abolition and the evangelical revival in Britain through the life of John Newton. Newton, though not representative of every abolitionist, was a vital figure in the movement. His influence on Hannah More and William Wilberforce along with his contributions to the Parliamentary hearings made him a key aspect of its success. How he came to fulfill that role was a long and complex journey, both in terms of his religion and his understanding of slavery. He began his life under the spiritual direction of his pious, Dissenting mother, became an atheist by nineteen, and then an influential, evangelical minister in the Church of England in his later adulthood. In the midst of that journey, Newton was impressed, joined the crew of a slave ship, was himself enslaved, became a slave ship captain, and then, eventually, a fervent abolitionist. Though it was far from straightforward, Newton's evangelical Calvinistic theology seems to have driven him to ultimately condemn the slave trade. Understanding the relationship between Newton’s two conversions—to evangelical Christianity and abolitionism—gives modern readers’ insight into the intellectual roots of the abolitionist movement more broadly, the dynamics between Christianity and politics, as well as how individual moral choice can affect history.