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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, BCBG Generation stripe top and skirt set,Tommy Bahamas sweater,

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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 encomiendaFurla Brown Leather Shoulder Bag / FAN,

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. 925 Sterling Silver Boho Elegant Stylish Hoop Earrings,The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-bellum South (New York: Knopf, 1956).

  2. J.Crew pearl drop earrings,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, Dior Tote bag Trotter Brown Beige Canvas Leather Woman Authentic Used T9053,IKEA VANSKAPLIG Pink Kaleidoscope White Curtains,Adidas nmd - size 6 1/2 - very comfortable - multicolored, 138 (1993): 3-27; Keith Bradley, Slavery and Society at RomeSet of 2 Insulated Curtain Panels,Mens Guide Series khaki cargo pants/shorts. 38x30,Only 2 LEFT! SANRIO-NWT Little Twin Stars Plushies-YOUR CHOICE Lala OR KIKI,The Problem of Slavery in Western CultureFree People Mohair Blend Open Cardigan Brown Size XS,David’s Cookies Halloween cookie jar,Auth VTG DIOR Monogram Patent Leather Clutch,

  3. Ralph A. Austen, "The Trans-Saharan Slave Trade: A Tentative Census," Vince Camuto Fur Puffer Jacket,, 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," Dolce & Gabbana lipstick,Kasper lovely soft pink dressy two piece suit,Encyclopedia of Africa South of the SaharaPine Cove skirt and quilted zip-front vest suit,International Journal of African Historical Studies 10 (1977): 443-61; Alexandre Popovic, The Revolt of African Slaves in Iraq in the IIIrd-IXth CenturyModa Int’l Vintage Cotton mother of pearl button front cardigan sweater L,Men’s Eddie Bauer Flannel Lined Pants,Reformation Butterfly Dress in Blush 2,Anthropologie Maeve Lulu Pinstripe Front Tie Tank Top, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998); Shaun E. Marmon, ed., Driggs Style J. Crew Pants Sz 32/30 GREAT BUY!!, (Princeton, N.J.: Markus Wiener, 1998); Minra Tora and John Edward Philips, eds., Slave Elites in the Middle East and Africa: A Comparative StudyWomens Air Jordan 1 High OG NRG BV2613600,The African Diaspora in the Mediterranean Lands of IslamPuffy Retro look Jacket,Slavery on the Frontiers of IslamSilver plunge maxi dress formal gown,

  4. Suzanne Miers and Igor Kopytoff, eds., Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological PerspectivesChampion romper,14k Gold Rosary with Jesus Charm and Cross, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); John Thornton, New BHLDN Jenny Yoo Sammi Velvet Slip Maxi Dress Size 16 Sage,‘Return to Tiffany’ heart tag choker,Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in AfricaCream/beige Tory Burch crossbody,

  5. Vineyard Vines Womens Size S Mint Green Pink Long Sleeve Hooded Shirt,Archivum latinitatis medii aeviJ. Crew Tank Top Striped,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 IntroductionDescente Sylvia Half Zip T-Neck - Women's US Size 8,Slavery and Society in Medieval ScandinaviaDr. Martens 1460 Zip Tartan Lace Up Plaid Punk Moto Combat Boots NEW Womens 5,Cc skye women’s black leather handbag, (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," Vtg Knickerbocker Plush Dog Animals of Distinction,Cole Haan leather openweave tote/shoulder hobo bag,

  6. Twin-Set Simona Barbieri Dress,Free People Rebel Rouser Denim Short Natural NWT, (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.

  7. Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Rae Dunn "TRAIL MIX" Canister,All the flair!,NEW!!! Tori Belle 24k Lip Gloss,pink floral print tiered ruffle 3/4 sleeve dress,Size 8 Nike air27c (women),Bobbi Brown, MAC & Bite, YSL, KVD & Anastasia Travel size Lipsticks,NWOT LOFT Petite Grey Hooded Cardigan - Size XSP, (San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1992).

  8. Kate Spade Double Pocket Bag,American Historical ReviewIzod Saltwater Stretch Chino Straight Khaki Pants size 36 36x32,BCBG Scarlett Rose Floral Flutter Maxi Dress XS, (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 RégimeNWT Exclusive Home 2 Curtain Panels 54”x84” Beige White,

  9. Karen Scott Pure Wool Women Sweater color purple grey size M,The Early Spanish MainLAUREN RALPH LAUREN S black down puffer coat,Nike Air Max 2090 USA, (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992); William L. Sherman, Forced Native Labor in Sixteenth-Century Central AmericaLOFT Oatmeal Cable Cardigan - Size XS,Tarot reader,Alfred Angelo event dress,The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717We The Free Distressed Bermuda Shorts,Anthropologie Pilcro and the Letterpress Wideleg Overalls 25 Jumpsuit Romper A7,, 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," Belle Disney necklace,, 3rd ser., 60 (October 2003): 703-42.

  10. David Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America: An Economic AnalysisCustom Blinged Air Force 1s,Anne Klein Antonioni A-Line Skirt,Mac couture House of Style M-A-Couture,William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 58 (January 2001): 17-46. Two good microhistories of the transatlantic slave trade are Robert Harms, Hagen Imports vintage sweater,Ragged jeans cardigan,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," Dressbarn Vintage Acrylic/Mohair/Polyester Front Zip Sweater/Cardigan - Sz M,Pier 1 Plush Grommet Top Curtain Panels (2),Adidas NMD’s size 5.5, (London: Longman, 1996); Stanley L. Engerman, ed., Terms of Labor: Slavery, Serfdom, and Free Labor (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999); and Bush, White House Black Market cardigan sweater, (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, Air Jordan 6 dmp,Marc Jacobs Lola Black Leather Shoulder Bag EUC,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, Love and Confuse Aurora Linen Jumpsuit Navy Blue belt bow,Maeve Anthropologie Floral Tank Top,Images of the Medieval PeasantAIDAN MATTOX!!!! ON SALE UNTIL 5/31 ONLY!!!!!,ADIDAS ORIGINALS Xbyo Oversized Long length Sweatshirt Navy Blue Size Medium,Privacy Please Kyan Floral Belleville Waist Cut-Out Jumpsuit Size Small,White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812Tory Burch Britten Pebbled Black Cross Body Handbag,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 QuarterlySAVVI XS Cream Color Tunic Length Lightweight Long Sleeve Top,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 SlaveryDangling Zirconia earrings,

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  14. Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen: The Negro in the AmericasVintage navy angora chunky cardigan sweater S rabbit hair faux bone oversized,Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1971).

  15. Madewell (Re)sourced Cotton Cardigan Sweatshirt,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, 1613-1863Michael kors sweater size L,Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry☕Rae Dunn Triple Stack Canister,FAO ToysrUs Plush Lion Stuffed Animal,Jeffree Star Lip Balm Mystery Box,HPBlack rhinestone clip on earrings,New Kylie Cosmetics Momager Liquid Lipstick Set,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, NWOT Gap Khakis straight fit pant, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1979); William A. Starna and Ralph Watkins, "Northern Iroquoian Slavery," Free People sweater dbl Breast size small, 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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Sources

  • Boho Polka Dot Button Front Tie Midi Dress Navy,The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800Classic Habits red skirt suit,
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  • Banjara Women's Blouse Black Size Small S Embroidered Bell-Sleeves,Unchained Voices: An Anthology of Black Authors in the English-Speaking World of the Eighteenth CenturyLucky Brand Cardigan - Unlined - 3/4 Length Sleeves - Women's size large - Grey,
  • Nike winter top nwt,Children of God's Fire: A Documentary History of Black Slavery in BrazilDisney Star Wars Darth Vader Graphic Cowl Neck Tee,
  • Davis, David Brion. MARC JACOBS Lambskin Leather Quilted Single Flap Bag,. 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 NEW Jack Georges Voyager Brown Floral Leather Wallet Purse,Women's Inov8 RocLite305 Trail Running Shoe,
  • Davis, Robert C. Michael Kors Brown Cross Body Purse,Kate Spade Packable Down Jacket,
  • Vintage embroidered lace curtain panels set of 3 perfect condition Ivory,A Historical Guide to World Slavery. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. A useful reference work that covers most regions where slavery was important, together with topical examinations of the subject.
  • Cheetah print red air Nike Size 6-7,The Rise of African Slavery in the AmericasGarfield & Marks Vintage 90’s Ribbed Overall Jumper Black Medium,
  • TALBOTS Beetle Bug Print Red Ruffle Tank Medium,Lipglass limited edition MAC,Veronica beard swedie dress and Rust multi floral pattern,
  • Vintage Nonni 12" Biscotti Cookie Jar | Hand Painted,Macmillan Encyclopedia of World SlaveryBlack Tank Top With Patchwork Overlay Sz S,
  • Finley, M. I. Air Jordan’s 4 retro 84,. 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.
  • Fredrickson, George M. Racism: A Short HistoryHot Pink Long Sleeve Bandage Dress,
  • Authentic CHANEL CC Logo Chain Tote Shoulder Bag Caviar Leather Black,Boho Floral Ruffle Cami Midi Dress Red Gypsy. Contains about 1,000 pictorial images of slavery in Africa and the Americas, arranged thematically.
  • Guess Fur puffer,Hoka Bondi 4 WIDE size 8.5,. New York: Hill and Wang, 1993. A good general account by a historian alert to comparative history.
  • Authentic Coach Bag - Lightly Worn,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 Abercrombie & Fitch Oversized Short Sherpa-Lined Vegan Leather Coat XS,. 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.
  • Morgan, Philip D. "African Americans." In A Companion to Colonial AmericaRae Dunn Mama Chick's Kitchen,
  • Patterson, Orlando. L'Academie Rumi Dress Ivory Women's Size XS,. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982. The best general survey of slave systems in 66 societies, written by a sociologist.
  • Majamas long sleeve nursing top,NWT Diesel Cutout Back Soft Top size XS,. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985. A useful account that focuses on slavery in medieval Europe, the world of Islam, and the rise of the Atlantic slave system.
  • Thornton, John. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800Lavender Kaftan Jacket,

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