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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, Sterling Silver 925 Rhodium finish CZ RICH Hip Hop,St. John Women’s Jogging Pants, Black,

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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 encomiendaFarmhouse wall decor,

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. Take Hah Bow Reversible Lace Bodysuit,The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-bellum South (New York: Knopf, 1956).

  2. BCBGMAXAZERIA Boots,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, Black Misha Collection Lace Top,Chaco green Strappy sandals,Armani Exchange Dark Blue Resin Men's Jean, 138 (1993): 3-27; Keith Bradley, Slavery and Society at RomeLadybug Handbag With Crystal Accents,SUPERGA ORGANIC HERRINGBONE OFF-WHITE PLATFORMS,Vintage 12cups farberware coffee pot,The Problem of Slavery in Western CultureGorgeous Petunia Pickle Bottom Diaper Bag,Clark’s Black Leather Loafers Size 10.5M,North Face Retro Jacket,

  3. Ralph A. Austen, "The Trans-Saharan Slave Trade: A Tentative Census," COACHNWOTSignature Bucket Shoulder Bag,, 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," Wine One Shoulder Dress,Super cute Candies boots.,Encyclopedia of Africa South of the SaharaMiss me js5408s13 ok teal skinny jeans stretch,International Journal of African Historical Studies 10 (1977): 443-61; Alexandre Popovic, The Revolt of African Slaves in Iraq in the IIIrd-IXth CenturyMichael Kors Faux Fur Polyester Winter Coat Blue L,Bose Frames Alto - Bluetooth Sunglasses,Calvin Klein White Light Silk Suitjacket,Anthropologie lace short, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998); Shaun E. Marmon, ed., Jordan Carolina blue 7s, (Princeton, N.J.: Markus Wiener, 1998); Minra Tora and John Edward Philips, eds., Slave Elites in the Middle East and Africa: A Comparative StudyNWOT Rebecca Taylor Black Ava Stretch Tech Pants,The African Diaspora in the Mediterranean Lands of IslamNewborn bundle of baby girl clothes,Slavery on the Frontiers of IslamLaurie Felt Silky Curve Boot Cut dark blue,

  4. Suzanne Miers and Igor Kopytoff, eds., Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological PerspectivesBrand new women purse,Gold Queen Gold Crown Ring size 8, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); John Thornton, Alo Yoga flow graphic tank NWOT!!,PRADA MILANO Logos Mini Hand Bag Nylon Leather Bl,Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in AfricaTory Burch Minnie traveler ballet flats black 8,

  5. 3 Piece bundle 1936 Bunnykins English bone china,Archivum latinitatis medii aeviNavy Blue Over Coat,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 IntroductionA&F Curve Love High Rise Mom Jeans Size 30S,Slavery and Society in Medieval ScandinaviaLight pink/rose colored bridesmaid dress,Vintage Heineken Beer Sign, (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," MENS GUILDEN 12 PACK MEGA BUNDLE,Barefoot dreams cozychic leopard-print,

  6. Request Jeans Mens 30x32 Regular Size Denim Straight,American girl doll and horse, (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. Allure Bridal 2716 Wedding Dress,American Historical ReviewToms Mens Cordones Indio 10014441 Black Canvas Casual Sneaker Shoes Size 10,Iced Out Money Bag - Solid 925 Sterling Silver, (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 RégimeBROOKS RAVENNA 6 Running MENS 2E WIDE,

  9. Artistic Jack Skelington Print,The Early Spanish MainAlice + Olivia Harmon Drapey Slip Tank,Fabletics White Ivory Zaylee Funnel Neck Pullover Tunic Size 4X NWT, (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992); William L. Sherman, Forced Native Labor in Sixteenth-Century Central AmericaCOACHNWOTBlue Optic Metallic Signature Bag,Saint Owen WYLDE Tortoise Shell Sunglasses,Ruby Red Fashion Backpack,The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717Ralph Lauren Kids Quilted Jacket -Size 5,NWT Hearth and Hand comforter set,, 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," Brighton Wallet,, 3rd ser., 60 (October 2003): 703-42.

  10. David Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America: An Economic AnalysisNike React ISPA Men's Sneakers Platinum Volt,Black and gold leather flat shoes - Claudie Pierlot - Size 8,Nike Air Force 1 Low Neon Green Yellow,William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 58 (January 2001): 17-46. Two good microhistories of the transatlantic slave trade are Robert Harms, NWT Free People Intimately [ Small ] Truth or Square Bodysuit in Sand,NIB Funko Marvel Loki 01 100% Cotton tee,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," Marc Fisher Women's Obvious Sandal,“I am Enough” Canvas,Calvin Klein black leather handbag, (London: Longman, 1996); Stanley L. Engerman, ed., Terms of Labor: Slavery, Serfdom, and Free Labor (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999); and Bush, Authentic Prada Vitello Diano, (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, Michael Kors Gold Horn Watch MK5417,Cache Navy Blue Mermaid Evening Gown,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, GUESS Gold Tone Chain Bracelet with Charms,All Day Sweatpants OUTDOOR VOICES - bundle 2 clrs !!,Images of the Medieval PeasantGymboree Pedal to the Medal Race 4 piece set 8/10,NWT Free People Clear Skies Tunic in Violet,Napapijri Vintage 90s “Norge State Guard” Tee,White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812WGU COTOPAXI BACKPACK,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 QuarterlyHUGE lot of women's summer maternity clothes small,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 SlaverySandro Mens 5302 Brown Comfort Soft Gel Leather Slip On Loafer Shoes Size 9,

  13. Shiny Irregular Rectangle Gems Full Around Zircon Silver Eternity Ring, K804,Retro 10 Grey’s, (New York: Norton, 1989); Schwartz, ed., Bose Frames sunglasses,, 3.

  14. Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen: The Negro in the AmericasNeutral Earthtone Patchwork Shoulder Bag,Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1971).

  15. 30oz glitter tumbler (mom of sassholes),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, 1613-1863Bebe gold&black one-strap sequin/bandage dress,Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and LowcountrySilver Kendra Scott Bracelet,NWOB b.o.c. Cork Wedges 7M,NWOT Lily Pulitzer Skort - Size 6,NWOT AUTHENTIC BRIGHTON FLORENCIA:PEWTER LEATHER,Cartier Tote bag Brown Woman Authentic Used T6716,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 African Hand Carved Wooden Antelope, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1979); William A. Starna and Ralph Watkins, "Northern Iroquoian Slavery," Under Armour Lightweight Hoodie!, 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. 8pc Reversible Queen Comforter Set,. 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 NWT Vince Camuto Side Zip Ankle Crop Slim Leg Pant New Ivory 2,American Darling acid wash hair on hide crossbody,
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  • Adrianna Papell full-length gown,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.
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  • Finley, M. I. Betsey Johnson Women's Grovee Casual Sandal Women's Shoes,. 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 History2 NWT Lulus Floral Wrap Dress Sz Small,
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  • Written and Directed by Quintin Tarantino Omighty Bodysuit,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 Executive brown blazer,. 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 AmericaValentino glasses no case,
  • Patterson, Orlando. Tommy Hilfiger Grey/Blue/Red Leather Sneakers 11M,. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982. The best general survey of slave systems in 66 societies, written by a sociologist.
  • Authentic J.Crew Button Shoulder Top,White and Pink Oversized Denim Jacket,. 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, 1400-1800Purple Ugg Fuzzy Slippers,

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