From one of Britain's leading historians and the director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, a scintillating biography of Josiah Wedgwood, the celebrated eighteenth-century potter, entrepreneur, and abolitionist
Wedgwood's pottery, such as his celebrated light-blue jasperware, is famous worldwide. Jane Austen bought it and wrote of it in her novels; Empress Catherine II of Russia ordered hundreds of pieces for her palace. But the life of Josiah Wedgwood is far richer than just his accomplishments in ceramics. He was a leader of the Industrial Revolution, a pioneering businessman, a cultural tastemaker, and a tireless scientific experimenter whose inventions made him a fellow of the Royal Society. He was also an ardent abolitionist, whose Emancipation Badge medallion—depicting an enslaved African and inscribed "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?"—became the most popular symbol of the antislavery movement on both sides of the Atlantic. And he did it all in the face of chronic disability and relentless pain: a childhood bout with smallpox eventually led to the amputation of his right leg.
Drawing on a rich array of letters, journals, and historical documents, The Radical Potter brings us the story of a singular man, his dazzling contributions to design and innovation, and his remarkable global impact.
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