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Africa and the Slave Trade

Arabs and their Muslim allies were the first to make use of large numbers of sub-Saharan black Africans. They developed a long-distance slave trade, which began in the seventh century and lasted into the twentieth. It delivered many millions of Africans across the Sahara Desert, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean to North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Persian Gulf. Although over a much longer period of time and comprising far more females, the number of Africans exported via these trans-Saharan or Indian Ocean slave trades probably equaled, or even outmatched, those of its transatlantic counterpart. The preexistence of these export trades facilitated Atlantic trade: systems of slave marketing were already in place. So numerous were black Africans at certain times and in certain places that they were able to launch massive slave revolts—in 869, for instance, in what is now southern Iraq, where the so-called Zanj (who came from the Swahili Coast and lands further north) worked in large gangs draining marshlands. While the Quran and Islamic law were essentially color-blind and while Muslims enslaved many so-called "white" people, medieval Arabs came to associate the most degrading forms of labor with black slaves. The Arabic word for slave, 2B BEBE One shoulder long sleeve leopard dress,Vintage Diamond Filigree Ring in 18k White Gold,


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The Atlantic Slave System


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As slavery underwent a resurgence in southern Europe, it gradually disappeared from the northwestern part of the continent. Economic changes help to explain this development, but perhaps more important were cultural constraints. Over the course of the Middle Ages, Christians always committed awful atrocities on each other, but increasingly they avoided enslaving one another. Apparently, a sense of unity had emerged in Christian Europe that effectively barred the enslavement of those deemed fellow Europeans. Christianity's long struggle with Islam no doubt played a major role in this development. That from 1500 to 1800 Muslims enslaved well over a million Western Europeans, many of whom were subsequently ransomed and celebrated as symbols of freedom, was a major element in the growing sense that Europeans should never be slaves. Nevertheless, these so-called free labor nations would develop some of the harshest slave regimes in the Americas. As David Brion Davis puts it, "it is an astonishing paradox that the first nations in the world to free themselves of chattel slavery—such nations as England, France, Holland, and even the Scandinavian states—became leaders during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in supporting plantation colonies based on African slave labor." He likens this divide to a primitive Mason-Dixon line, "drawn somewhere in the Atlantic, separating free soil master-states from tainted slave soil dependencies" (8).

This paradox illumines the unpredictability of events in the Americas. No European nation embarked on New World ventures with the intention of enslaving anyone. They had no blueprint but rather proceeded haphazardly and pragmatically. Their first resort was to forced Indian labor (the encomiendaI ended up not liking the color.,

Consequently, Europeans faced a huge labor shortage. The Ottoman Turkish empire blocked access to Black Sea or Baltic captives. European nations no longer enslaved Christian prisoners of war. Some dreamers talked of enslaving the poor or other marginal groups, but the practical and principled problems of reviving European slavery were considerable. Another expedient was the transportation of convicts, but their numbers were never sufficient. Temporary bondage—indentured servitude—was the most obvious and most widely used other option, particularly in the early years, but servants, if they survived, eventually became free, and in any case most servants would not travel to the areas where most labor was needed. Thus, almost by default, African slaves proved by far the best available labor supply. Consequently, from 1500 to 1820 almost 9 million African slaves left for the New World, compared to less than 3 million whites. In terms of migration, the New World was more black than white (10).

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New World slavery's other most distinctive aspect was its highly commercial character. While it is true that plantations—that is, large agricultural enterprises, managed for profit, producing a crop for export, with a hierarchically stratified labor organization—existed outside the New World, they reached their apogee there. The economies of scale, the expansion in unit size, the almost exclusive use of black slaves, a highly regimented and commodified labor force, and a system of close management all raised profit levels significantly. Such a productive system placed enormous demands on its laborers. As early as the 1630s a visitor to a Jesuit-owned sugar plantation in Brazil vividly described the unbearable horror of what had transpired: "People the color of the very night, working briskly and moaning at the same time without a moment of peace or rest, whoever sees all the confused and noisy machinery and apparatus of this Babylon, even if they have seen Mt. Etna and Vesuvius will say that this indeed is the image of Hell" (13).

Patterns of New World Slavery

Variations over time and space existed within New World slavery. Three stand out. First, although all New World regions imported more African men than women (thereby in part explaining the harshness of New World slavery because of the policing problems associated with large gangs of men), over time the gender ratio among New World slaves became increasingly balanced. In that regard, the North American slave population is most notable, because, as its number of slave women increased the most rapidly, so it became one of the few self-reproducing slave populations in world history. This early and rapid natural increase explains why North America received such a small percentage of the overall transatlantic slave trade—about 5 percent. Second, North America was also distinctive in being much less tolerant of racial intermixture than Latin America or the Caribbean. Once again demography—particularly the ratio of white men to white women (more balanced in North America than in Latin America and the Caribbean) and the availability of black women—was a crucial part of the explanation, but also important were the role of the Church and cultural mores, based as much in Old World patterns of racial coexistence or segregation. The Spanish had mixed with Muslims for centuries; the English had created a Pale in their settlement of Ireland. Only in North America did the extremely arbitrary concept of "Negro"—denoting anyone with allegedly visible African ancestry—assume such a marked stigma. Third, the chances of gaining freedom varied from one society to the next. Except for the period surrounding the American Revolution, the North American colonies, and later the states, imposed the severest restrictions on the chances of a slave becoming free. Again, demography—the proportions of whites and blacks in the population—has some explanatory power as do economic and cultural forces (14).

North American slavery itself was hardly of a piece. The range encompasses New England's intimate "family slavery"; the Mid-Atlantic's mixed forms of slavery and servitude; the Chesapeake's patriarchal, small plantation, mixed farming and tobacco, heavily native-born form of slavery; and the low country's impersonal, large plantation, rice and indigo, more heavily African system of slavery. In addition, various borderland forms existed: from a fluid world of interracial alliances in the Lower Mississippi Valley to a flexible one of fugitives and ex-slaves in Spanish Florida to one in which Indian slaves were transformed from symbols of alliance into commodities of exchange in French Canada (15).

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  1. Polo Sport polo shirt,The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-bellum South (New York: Knopf, 1956).

  2. Rebecca Minkoff leather sandals,International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, ed. David L. Sills and Robert King Merton (New York: Macmillan, 1968), 14: 307-13; Finley, Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology, reprint (Hammondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1983, 1980), 9, 96, 102, 111, 113-14; Keith Hopkins, Star short sleeve stripe shorts girls 4th of july outfits,vintage Trifari leaf broach rhinestones, marked gold tone mcm design,Black Gucci Tie, 138 (1993): 3-27; Keith Bradley, Slavery and Society at Rome14k three tone gold necklace,PAIGE Canyon Boot Jeans size 29 Medium Wash Distressed Good condition,Dune London Genuine Calf Hair Satchel,The Problem of Slavery in Western CultureWHBM Black Skirt,Kay Unger Strapless Red Paisley Print Silk Dress,Christine Alexander pant Size M,

  3. Ralph A. Austen, "The Trans-Saharan Slave Trade: A Tentative Census," NAOT Wedge Sandals with decorative T-Strap .,, ed. Henry A. Gemery and Jan S. Hogendorn (New York: Academic Press, 1979), 23-76; Austen, "The Mediterranean Islamic Slave Trade out of Africa: A Tentative Census," OR by oryany beauty! Teal with plum interior with teal leather trim. Once loved.,Made in the Deep South vintage necklace,Encyclopedia of Africa South of the SaharaVintage 90s 1992 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Country Double Layered T Shirt,International Journal of African Historical Studies 10 (1977): 443-61; Alexandre Popovic, The Revolt of African Slaves in Iraq in the IIIrd-IXth CenturyLike New ASICS Running Shoes,Anne Abella Low V cut bodycon dress,Gucci short sleeve t shirt,1996 Nike Air Max Penny II OG White Blue Shoes 130608-141 Men 13, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998); Shaun E. Marmon, ed., 3pcs Crystal Bling Cases Compatible Apple Watch 38mm w/tampered glass protector, (Princeton, N.J.: Markus Wiener, 1998); Minra Tora and John Edward Philips, eds., Slave Elites in the Middle East and Africa: A Comparative StudyVince Crew Neck Ribbed Fitted Sweater,The African Diaspora in the Mediterranean Lands of IslamMADEWELL NEW Rainbow Beaded Slider Bracelet,Slavery on the Frontiers of IslamMarc by Marc Jacobs Wristlet -New Q Wingman -blue,

  4. Suzanne Miers and Igor Kopytoff, eds., Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological PerspectivesBlack scallop leather handbag purse,ICEPLAY ICEBERG MOTEL WHITE T SHIRT, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); John Thornton, Nine West Black Faux Leather Backpack Purse EUC,Valentino Sweet Garden Bow dress sz. 8,Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in AfricaAlegria booties,

  5. Beyond velvet over the knee high healed boots,Archivum latinitatis medii aeviAmerican Girl Doll, Girl of the year 2016. Original dress, bag, camera, sloth.,L'Esclavage dans l'Europe médiévale, vol. 1, Pénisule Ibérique—France (Bruges: De Tempel, 1955); vol. 2, Italie, Colonies Italiennes du Levant, Levant Latin, Empire Bysantin (Ghent: 1977); and Verlinden, The Beginnings of Modern Colonization: Eleven Essays with an IntroductionJoe’s Jeans AZYL5324 Muse Dylan Cut JWD522 Dark,Slavery and Society in Medieval ScandinaviaHouseware Inc. Red You Go Girl Mug 20 oz,Home Collection Ultra Soft Down Alternative Comforter Set - Aqua, (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 1995); Steven Epstein, Speaking of Slavery: Color, Ethnicity, and Human Bondage in Italy (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001); and Sally McKee, "Inherited Status and Slavery in Late Medieval Italy and Venetian Crete," Juicy Couture Corduroy Red Black Green Plaid Sport Coat Rare Size 40,Vintage Chrome Hearts Foti Harris Teeter Shirt,

  6. Dooney & Bourke Emerson collection brynn,Smoke grey one sleeve Helmut Lang dress/top, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440-1870 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 21-24, 48-86.

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  8. Joah brown joggers,American Historical ReviewKate Spade Bunny Bifold Cardholder Wallet NWOT,% Dolce Gabbana Sun Glasses, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003), 14; Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003). For more on the development of freedom and slavery, see David Eltis, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), and Sue Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien RégimeColebrook & Co. Winter Jacket,

  9. Gucci Blade Graphic Tee,The Early Spanish MainThe Little Mermaid 30th Anniversary,Small homecoming dress, (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992); William L. Sherman, Forced Native Labor in Sixteenth-Century Central AmericaBlue denim,Coconuts Matisse Reginald Suede Over the Knee Block Heel Boots 7.5 Camel Brown,Fendi womens hoodie cropped size small,The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717Lurueña metallic gunmetal shoulder bag,TCP baby Girls 4 Piece Outfit Size 6-9 Months NEW!,, ed. Elizabeth Mancke and Carole Shammas (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), 75-121. For a recent discussion of Indian population decline, see David S. Jones, "Virgin Soils Revisited," Pottery Barn Kids bedding set,, 3rd ser., 60 (October 2003): 703-42.

  10. David Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America: An Economic AnalysisSupreme Mike Kelly sweatshirt,Custom Nike metcon 4 shoes- says Ryan on the back,Lilly Pulitzer Folly Skort,William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 58 (January 2001): 17-46. Two good microhistories of the transatlantic slave trade are Robert Harms, Boys Tazio Black 3 pc Tuxedo w/ White & Grey Shirt,Red Floral Print Karl Lagerfeld Dress, Size 12,The Two Princes of Calabar: An Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Odyssey (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004).

  11. David Eltis and William G. Clarence-Smith, "White Servitude," NWT Adidas Ultimate Sports Bra,Steven Madden Boots,Coach black signature wallet black with zipper, (London: Longman, 1996); Stanley L. Engerman, ed., Terms of Labor: Slavery, Serfdom, and Free Labor (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999); and Bush, Alice Olivia Alta Square Neck Silk-Blend Peasant Top size M, (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2000).

  12. Frank M. Snowden Jr., Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1970); Snowden, Noat | Sandals Kate Rhinestone Buckle Leather Cork Slides In Size 41,Swarovski necklace & ring,The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2004); Jean Devisse and Michel Mollat, eds., The Image of the Black in Western Art, vol. 2, Button down denim jean skirt RARE,ANTHRO| Lapis Convertible Floral Maxi Dress Skirt,Images of the Medieval PeasantJ.Crew Sequin Stripe Supersoft Yarn Sweater,Aquatalia Perforated Suede Ankle Booties - Size 10,Bee charm anklet,White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812Tommy Bahama Tropicool Palms Polo XL/TG,Race: The History of an Idea in the West (Washington, D.C.: The Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1996); the essays in "Constructing Race: Differentiating Peoples in the Early Modern World," William and Mary QuarterlySilver Jeans Denim Womens Aiko Bootcut Dark Wash with stretch size 29,The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003). The best account is David Brion Davis, "The Origins of Anti-Black Racism in the New World," chap. 3 in Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of New World SlaveryLululemon swiftly tech short sleeve,

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  14. Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen: The Negro in the AmericasIdaho Vandals Adidas Black & white Lightweight Jacket size Mens Medium,Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1971).

  15. genuine DIOR sunglasses,Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-Century New England (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988); Graham Russell Hodges, Root and Branch: African Americans in New York and East Jersey, 1613-1863Handmade custom Indian clutch,Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and LowcountryVictoria secret bra top bundle,Rimini Long evening gown New 5 - 5’2 height,PLUS STRAPLESS MESH BODY CON TUBE DRESS,Blazer, Jacket, Talbots, NWT,Women’s Puma Sneakers,William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., 60 (October 2003): 777-808. To this list might be added other forms of aboriginal slavery: see Theda Perdue, Retired AMERICAN GIRL 1988 MOLLY'S HULA COSTUME, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1979); William A. Starna and Ralph Watkins, "Northern Iroquoian Slavery," Lucky Brand COMFORTER, 38 (Winter 1991): 34-57; and Leland Donald, Aboriginal Slavery on the Northwest Coast of North America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997).

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  • Davis, David Brion. Pottery barn kids dinosaur comforter and sham,. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003. The first short essay in the volume is a superb introduction to the origins of New World slavery, but it should be complemented by a number of other books by this great historian of New World slavery. I particularly recommend his Rags 2T Skateboard Romper,Antique carved jade silver fillagree ring,
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  • Finley, M. I. RARE~1999 VINTAGE COLLECTABLE EDITIONVictorian Barbie With Cedric Bear,. Reprint. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1983, 1980. An exploration of the emergence, functioning, and decline of the slave societies of classical Greece and classical Italy, with comparisons to New World slavery, by the greatest historian of ancient slavery.
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  • Young, Fabulous, and Broke Tie Dye Set,Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. A good survey of slavery and the evolution of racial prejudice in the Islamic world.
  • Miers, Suzanne, and Igor Kopytoff, eds. Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977. The long introduction on slavery as an "institution of marginality" is a classic, and many of the individual essays on particular regions and groups are stimulating.
  • Miller, Joseph. C., ed. Slavery and Slaving in World History: A Bibliography, 1900-1996. 2 vols. Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1999. The most comprehensive work of its kind. Annual updates are available in the journal CABI long Shadow Curvy Slim Boot jeans,. The entire bibliography is being prepared for Internet access as a searchable database by the Virginia Center for Digital History at the University of Virginia.
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  • Thornton, John. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800Men Medium Long Wool Jacket L.L Bean,

Philip D. Morgan is the Sydney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the American Revolutionary Era at Princeton University. He is the author of Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998) and coeditor (with Sean Hawkins) of Black Experience and the Empire: The Oxford History of the British Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). He would like to acknowledge in particular the assistance of David Brion Davis, who generously sent him two early chapters from his forthcoming manuscript, "Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of New World Slavery."

Authored by

  • Philip D. Morgan
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    Princeton, New Jersey