Coalminer, anti-slaver, ironmaster, Indian fighter and bridge builder. Nathaniel Shawcross is all of these and more. Brought up in the turbulent years of the late 18th century, this young Shropshire man develops a sense of justice and commitment to humanity that puts many to shame. A moral code forged in the radicalism of the new enlightenment, evangelical religion and Quakerism soon brings him into conflict with the amoral landowning elite of the time. Fleeing to the American colonies, where he hopes to find a better world, he is dismayed at what he discovers. Notions of savagery and civilisation are turned on their heads. He disappears into the frontier wilderness where he seeks to establish a community that is tolerant and peaceful. But he is beset by personal tragedy and the unstoppable march to racial intolerance, genocide and war. He returns to England to restart his former life but he is a different man and will not shy away from injustice wherever it appears. A man of ideas ahead of his time perhaps, he embraces technological progress as the years draw close to the new century. But he's not without doubts about the future.