The working classes were not the only 'other nation' to play an important role in both Dickens's imagination and his politics. Matters of race loomed large at the very beginning of his career when he was a parliamentary reporter, listening to the debates surrounding the passage of the Colonial Secretary, Edward Stanley's Abolition Bill in the early 1830s.3 The slave trade in the British colonies had been outlawed in 1807, although the institution of slavery itself did not end until 1833. By 1840 the British had taken up the cause of universal abolition and London hosted the first International Anti-Slavery Convention. Linda Colley has drawn attention to the seemingly rapid change in attitude:

From being the world's greediest and most successful traders of slaves in the eighteenth century, the British had shifted to being able to preen themselves on being the world's foremost opponents of slavery. This had been an extraordinary revolution in sensibility and ideas, one that revealed as much if not more about how the British thought about themselves, as it did about how they saw black people on the other side of the world.