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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, Current/Elliot Cropped Straight Love Letter Jeans,Sherri Hill Polka Dot Gown,

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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 encomiendaTrident Vintage Chew on This MTV Tee Shirt,

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. Lace Sheath Evening Gown,The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-bellum South (New York: Knopf, 1956).

  2. Anthro Pumpkin Spatula and Cookie Cutter,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, Unique design headband,Vintage Black And Decker Space Saver KM150 Cordless Mixer Rechargeable 3 Speed,J. Crew The Perfect Bodysuit Striped Size Medium, 138 (1993): 3-27; Keith Bradley, Slavery and Society at RomeNever been worn Lululemon shorts size 6. Fun pink print,Amazing vintage 80s Emanuel Ungaro 3 piece suit!,Moissanite Ring in Vermeil Yellow Gold Over Sterling Silver (Size 7.0) 0.90 ctw,The Problem of Slavery in Western CultureDisney Mickey and Minnie canvas shoes,Plus formal dress,Madewell Women's Medium Cardigan Sweater Heathered Gray Open Front Knitted,

  3. Ralph A. Austen, "The Trans-Saharan Slave Trade: A Tentative Census," Nicole Miller Fur,, 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," Beautiful Green & Pink 9.5” Large Murano Art Glass Bowl Flower Ruffled Excellent,NEW Eddie Bauer Double-Knit L/S Shirt MED,Encyclopedia of Africa South of the SaharaMadewell Black Faux Wrap Bodysuit,International Journal of African Historical Studies 10 (1977): 443-61; Alexandre Popovic, The Revolt of African Slaves in Iraq in the IIIrd-IXth CenturyReigning Champ Hooded Windbreaker Size M,Lucky Brand 181 Jeans Relaxed Straight Fit Blue Men's Size 38x34,Beautiful Neiman Marcus Good Luck Tee Bodysuit,Pier 1 Italy Hand Painted Italian Pottery Large Serving Bowl Signed C.Jortini, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998); Shaun E. Marmon, ed., Reebok Classic Sneakers Womens 7.5 Black Leather Low Top Lace Up Walking Shoes, (Princeton, N.J.: Markus Wiener, 1998); Minra Tora and John Edward Philips, eds., Slave Elites in the Middle East and Africa: A Comparative StudySilver Tourmaline ring,The African Diaspora in the Mediterranean Lands of IslamThe Pioneer Woman Polka Dot Utensil Crock Holder Canister Ceramic Red Turquoise,Slavery on the Frontiers of IslamNWT CHRISTOPHER KANE Silk Organza Scallop Dress,

  4. Suzanne Miers and Igor Kopytoff, eds., Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological PerspectivesLady Gambler Dress,GAP Factory Colorblock Crewneck Sweater, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); John Thornton, Women’s guess shoes size 9.5,Minnie Mouse Satin Polka Dot Bow Ear Headband,Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in AfricaVTG 90s Florida State Seminoles Pullover Jacket XL,

  5. Never worn HD zip, laced and lined leather VEST,Archivum latinitatis medii aeviVictoria’s Secret Sleep-shirt / Pajamas,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 IntroductionNWT J.Crew Slim Secret Wash Button Down Shirt MENS XL Red Gingham Heather Poplin,Slavery and Society in Medieval ScandinaviaJ.Crew Navy & White Striped Pajama Set,Summer dress. Perfect for bridal/baby shower and weddings., (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," NWT VINEYARD VINES WOMEN'S PUFFER POCKET V…,Vintage 1991 coca cola tee,

  6. Britt Ryan NWT White One Shoulder Maxi Dress XS,Williams Sonoma cheese set 5 pieces, (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. Straight Down Men's Pebble Beach Golf Sweater Gray Size M,American Historical ReviewNew formal prom gown. Evening party dress black,NWT Zara men’s red cotton long sleeve shirt, (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 RégimeMens Levi Jeans (NEW W/ TAGS) 502 Taper Fit Big and Tall 42X34L,

  9. Deruta Tabletops Unlimited 2 ea. Plates & Cups,The Early Spanish MainCapulet Revolve Willow Skirt in Calico XS,Rafael Suits Ladies Business/Corporate Blazer, (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992); William L. Sherman, Forced Native Labor in Sixteenth-Century Central AmericaLululemon Knockout Shorts,Aqua Tadashi Shoji one-shoulder cocktail dress,Vintage RUSSELL crew sweater,The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717Vince Men's Crew Short Sleeve T-Shirt Garment Dyed Tee Washed Infinity Blue sz S,Members Only Nickelodeon Spongebob Rugrats Full Zip Windbreaker Jacket L,, 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," Vtg. Stainless & Silver Plate Utensils,, 3rd ser., 60 (October 2003): 703-42.

  10. David Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America: An Economic AnalysisPearl Izumi EM Road H3 Running Sneakers Womens 10 Teal Low Top Athletic Shoes *,VTG 1989 Scott Air Force Base Military Hospital T-Shirt Screen Stars USA White,AG Prima Crop denim,William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 58 (January 2001): 17-46. Two good microhistories of the transatlantic slave trade are Robert Harms, David Koma Embellished Tailored Mini Dress,Lovers + Friends Madalena Skirt,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," Vintage SOLID METAL RELVON BEJEWELED LOVE PAT,NWT Rag & Bone New York Silky Mandy Midi Skirt Size Small,Skyr vintage nordic wool fair isle knit sweater metal clasp women's L blue ivory, (London: Longman, 1996); Stanley L. Engerman, ed., Terms of Labor: Slavery, Serfdom, and Free Labor (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999); and Bush, Large Black Ceramic French Poodle Teapot, (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, Ambiance White Lace Trimmed Cami Bodysuit,PJ Harlow Daisy Satin Cami with Braided Straps,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, Set of bamboo cooking utensils,Free People Offshore Yellow Floral Print Halter Bodysuit Sz: Small,Images of the Medieval Peasantlululemon in movement short everlux 2.5-inch,J Crew Sunday Morning Pants, NWT,Vans Off The Wall Mens Size S Red Orange Blue Plaid Classis Fit Button Up Shirt,White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812ORLEBAR BROWN POMODORO ORANGE NICHOL ANORAK,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 QuarterlyEUC Zimmermann Wild Botanica Butterfly Mini Dress 1,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 SlaveryLuxorro leather briefcase NWOT for men,

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  14. Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen: The Negro in the AmericasNWOT American Eagle Ribbed Henley LS Thong Bodysuit,Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1971).

  15. Luxury Silver Rhinestone Velvet Black Headband,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, 1613-1863The North Face Black USA Hooded Puffer Vest M NWT,Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and LowcountryTony Perotti Italian leather briefcase / laptop bag,Free People Intimately Blue Ruched Bodysuit Sz Lg,Retro NFL Sweater,Bebe Black and Blue Striped Bandage Dress,PJ Salvage Bottoms,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, NINA CANACCI 7331, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1979); William A. Starna and Ralph Watkins, "Northern Iroquoian Slavery," Levi Strauss &Co jeans, 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

  • NWT Le Lis Small white and black animal print bodysuit,The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800Blush by US Angels,
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  • Comfy USA Women’s Stretch Cotton Button Knit Blazer Cardigan Size Large K4,Children of God's Fire: A Documentary History of Black Slavery in BrazilMINT Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren Stripe Shirt MD,
  • Davis, David Brion. Jordache vintage jeans,. 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 Huge Teal Stone & white sapphire 925 Ring,KATE SPADE NWT FLORAL SWIRL HEADBAND 100% SILK,
  • Davis, Robert C. Misook | Black Formal Coat with Simmery Gold Pattern XL ⚜️,Adrianna Papell 16W Dress,
  • Authentic Kate Spade Trista Crinkle Patent Shopper Tote,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.
  • MINT Ralph Lauren Lightweight Twill Shirt LG,The Rise of African Slavery in the AmericasSexy Black Marciano Dress,
  • Vintage FRANK SMITH Silver Plate Flatware Fiddle Thread Set Serving/Knives/Forks,Bill Blass Briefcase/Laptop Bag,Off the shoulder ruffle jean dress,
  • NWT Talbots Women's Black Vest Size 12,Macmillan Encyclopedia of World SlaveryNWOB Keds Women's Double Decker Suede Burgundy Slip-On Shoes WH61083 Sz 8.5,
  • Finley, M. I. Sale! Classic 925 Sterling Ring,. 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 HistoryCHRISTIAN DIOR WIND BREAKER,
  • White House Black Market Black Line Blazer Jacket,Black TUMI brief back. Like new. No shoulder strap, no rips, no cuts, no scrapes. Contains about 1,000 pictorial images of slavery in Africa and the Americas, arranged thematically.
  • Liz Claiborne Elegant Blazer,Sakroots NWOT Colorful Kaleidoscope Crossbody/Wristlet,. New York: Hill and Wang, 1993. A good general account by a historian alert to comparative history.
  • Bare minerals veil setting powder.,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 Super cute bodysuit with side cut outs,. 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 AmericaNaturalizer Womens Miranda Fabric Hight Top Zipper Fashion Sneakers,
  • Patterson, Orlando. Woodcrest by Styson Teak Serving Tray,. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982. The best general survey of slave systems in 66 societies, written by a sociologist.
  • NWT Re/Done High Rise Black White Jeans - 25,Vtg 90's Lands' End Crewneck Sweater,. 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, 1400-1800Dell Leather Briefcase,

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