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Amazing Grace

A Cultural History of the Beloved Hymn

Amazing Grace

A Cultural History of the Beloved Hymn

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Publisher: University of California Press
ISBN: 9780520391826
Number of Pages: 216
Published: 31/10/2023
Width: 14 cm
Height: 21 cm
“A compelling story of a hymn rescued from the horror of slavery . . . in the author’s hands, 'Amazing Grace' lands firmly on the right side of history.”?TLS

Journey through the history of "Amazing Grace," one of the transatlantic world's most popular hymns and a powerful anthem for humanity.
Sung in moments of personal isolation or on state occasions watched by millions, "Amazing Grace" has become an unparalleled anthem for humankind. How did a simple Christian hymn, written in a remote English vicarage in 1772, come to hold such sway over millions in all corners of the modern world? With this short, engaging cultural history, James Walvin offers an explanation.
The greatest paradox is that the author of "Amazing Grace," John Newton, was a former Liverpool slave captain. Walvin follows the song across the Atlantic to track how it became part of the cause for abolition and galvanized decades of movements and trends in American history and popular culture. By the end of the twentieth century, "Amazing Grace" was performed in Soweto and Vanuatu, by political dissidents in China, and by Kikuyu women in Kenya. No other song has acquired such global resonance as "Amazing Grace," and its fascinating history is well worth knowing.

List of Illustrations 

1 • The Young Sinner 
2 • Slave Trader Turned Preacher 
3 • Crossing the Atlantic 
4 • America, Music, and “Amazing Grace” 
5 • Music in Slavery and Freedom 
6 • Singing and the World of Print 
7 • Musical Entertainments 
8 • “Amazing Grace” in Folk and Gospel Music 
9 • Music for Troubled Times 
10 • A Song for All Seasons 
11 • Pandemic: An Anthem for Humankind 
12 • With Amazing Grace 

Sources and Further Reading 

James Walvin

James Walvin is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of York. He has published widely on slavery and modern social history. His most recent book is A World Transformed: Slavery in the Americas and the Origins of Global Power.

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