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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, Wildfox Cassidy Road Runner Southwest Aztec Print Mini Tank Dress-Small,Charlotte Ronson + Starbucks Limited Edition Ceramic Tumbler Coffee Mug *NO LID*,

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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 encomiendaCoH Amber Stretch Rise Bootcut Denim Jeans Sz 25 Dark Wash 29" Inseam,

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. Boys Dark Blue Denim Jeans,The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-bellum South (New York: Knopf, 1956).

  2. Halloween Witch Decor Two Small Dragon Statues Dragon Egg Hatching Black Gray,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, Carolina Herrera Peplum Jacket,NWT Natural Diamond Pendant with 18' Chain,NWT 2015 NBA Adidas ALL STAR GAME EAST Shorts 2XL, 138 (1993): 3-27; Keith Bradley, Slavery and Society at RomeNEW Eric Jarvits Karli water repellent Python print wool hat,Free People Salt N Peppa Boho Faux Wrap V Neck Surplice Top Shirt Black Medium,Men’s NBA shorts,The Problem of Slavery in Western CultureMadewell ankle skinny jeans,I bought the shoe and it didn’t fit me so I’m getting rid of them,Nina Austin vintage silk black and white gown with silk chiffon overlay sz s euc,

  3. Ralph A. Austen, "The Trans-Saharan Slave Trade: A Tentative Census," TOP SECRET SOCIETY TS Society Sz M Gray Black Ivory Sweater Wool Cashmere Top,, 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," Timberland Kinsley Hiker Boot Nubuck Leather Waterproof Lug Sole Women's US 7.5,Genuine leather men’s belt Made in Italy,Encyclopedia of Africa South of the SaharaTommy Hilfiger ❤️ Brown with Gold Chain Crossbody Bag NWT,International Journal of African Historical Studies 10 (1977): 443-61; Alexandre Popovic, The Revolt of African Slaves in Iraq in the IIIrd-IXth CenturyTommy Hilfiger “puffy” winter coat,Fortress of Inca Ani Whiskey Boots,Comfy Cozy Blanket,NWT Sandro Stanislav White Zip Front Cardigan Sweater, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998); Shaun E. Marmon, ed., Youth Jordan XXXIII (GS), (Princeton, N.J.: Markus Wiener, 1998); Minra Tora and John Edward Philips, eds., Slave Elites in the Middle East and Africa: A Comparative StudyRARE Frye Embellished Tall Cowboy Western Bohemian Leather Riding Boots 6,The African Diaspora in the Mediterranean Lands of IslamBrock Collection × H&M Lyocell-blend Dress,Slavery on the Frontiers of IslamAmi Paris classic low top sneakers,

  4. Suzanne Miers and Igor Kopytoff, eds., Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological PerspectivesSUNDANCE: Multi Embroidered Cardigan,FENDI. Leather Shoes, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); John Thornton, Alice McCall Light Pink Under Control Cropped Pant With Ruffle Embellishment,Sterling silver Gods Infinite love pendant,Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in AfricaToddler ugg slippers, color blue, size 9 toddler,

  5. 41 Hawthorn double breasted soft blazer casual,Archivum latinitatis medii aeviblack doc Martin boots,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 IntroductionLack of Color Hat - The Mirage, Ivory (M/57 cm),Slavery and Society in Medieval ScandinaviaNine West Nwakieta,BLACK Most Wanted USA Arrow Leather Crossbody NWT, (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," Maison Margiela Women's Yellow Cardigan Sweater US M IT 42,Eileen Fisher 100% organic cotton cowl neck knit sweater,

  6. 2X Hooded winter coat. Black,espadrille platforms, (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. Calypso Beige Cashmere cardigan, size medium,American Historical ReviewGap Wool Angora Blend Turtleneck Sweater,14K Gold Prec Stones Station Necklace, (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 RégimeLucky Brand Aztec Print Cardigan Sweater- Large,

  9. Luv Betsey Brook Printed Backpack Black Multi NWT,The Early Spanish MainSherpa Denim Jacket Jean Coat,Altra Superior 4, (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992); William L. Sherman, Forced Native Labor in Sixteenth-Century Central AmericaKaren Scott Womens E7QJ Wedge Sandals,Vintage dr marten Getta grip low boots 6 men’s brown leather,Button Detail Dress With Pockets, L NWOT,The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717The Odells Anthropologie Robles Print Wrap Dress,Komarov Ruffle Trim Charmeuse Dress size M NWT,, 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," H&M blazer 44,, 3rd ser., 60 (October 2003): 703-42.

  10. David Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America: An Economic AnalysisSilver Steel Links, Fresh water Pearls & Crystals,East 5TH 3/4 Lenth Jacket M,Anthropologie Olivia Textured Cardigan new,William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 58 (January 2001): 17-46. Two good microhistories of the transatlantic slave trade are Robert Harms, Hallmark Santa's Workshop Elf # 25 Plush Bear,Vintage Pillbox Hat,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," Boys size 10 pants,Pretty cute platform shoes,Jordan 3 Retro Varsity Royal Cement box w-3, (London: Longman, 1996); Stanley L. Engerman, ed., Terms of Labor: Slavery, Serfdom, and Free Labor (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999); and Bush, Pandora 925 ALE Necklace with Charms, (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, Vintage Peek A Boo Buddy Yello Bear N Package 1996 Best Buy Childrens Foundation,NWT Tommy Hilfiger red pants,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, NWT Replay Service Equipment Short Sleeve Men's T,Leopard Prints Fluffy platform Sandals,Images of the Medieval PeasantBraeton Women’s Vintage Blazer Size Large,Paige Fairfax Jeans,COPY - WMNS AIR JORDAN 1 MID 'WOLF GREY ALUMINUM',White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-181214K Two-Tone Gold Cross Pendant,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 QuarterlyIntermix Cradigan,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 SlaveryVans - Limited Edition Toy Story Collection,

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  14. Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen: The Negro in the AmericasSt. Nicholas Square Ranger Station building MIB,Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1971).

  15. Dolce & Gabbana Floral Angel Blazer Coat Jacket,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, 1613-1863Karma sneakers by Exotics By Cedrick,Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and LowcountryAquatalia Brown Suede Boots size 8.5,Eckored coat,NWT ZARA Belted High Waisted Pants Blogger Favorite M,Topman Men's Blue Stretch Slim Fit Chino Pants Size 34,Columbia Men's Pilsner Peak Tan Pants 36 x 34,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, VINTAGE YVES SAINT LAURENT BLAZER, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1979); William A. Starna and Ralph Watkins, "Northern Iroquoian Slavery," journey 10k/14k white gold diamond set, 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. Aquatalia Black Suede Gail Quilted Boots/Booties,. 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 Hudson Harkin Super Skinny Cuff in Blackwash. Size 30.,Johnston & Murphy Green Chino Pants Men’s 34,
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  • Finley, M. I. Rixo London Katie Tulip Button Front Midi Dress,. 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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  • Lack of Color Ivory Rancher “SPECIAL”,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 STAR WARS Chewbacca Easter Greeter Plush Bunny Ears Paint Brush and Egg 20”,. 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 AmericaLack of Color Benson Tri Hat M,
  • Patterson, Orlando. Pendleton cardigan sweater,. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982. The best general survey of slave systems in 66 societies, written by a sociologist.
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  • Thornton, John. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800Brand new Marc Jacobs quilted nylon backpack,

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