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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, Drew Floral Naomi Vintage Floral Maxi Dress - Size Medium,Reversible Womens Rabbit Fur Jacket by JUNE. Brown Satin Sz S,

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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 encomiendaValentino Night NWT Sequin Set,

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. Illusion neckline fitted bridal gown wedding dress,The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-bellum South (New York: Knopf, 1956).

  2. Christian Dior Boutique Silk Wrap Blouse,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, Vince Camuto Carron JellySlides tortoise black, studded Gold SIZE 8 New,Likely NEW Velvet Purple Off the Shoulder Blouse,Kirkland. Men’s leather coat XXL, 138 (1993): 3-27; Keith Bradley, Slavery and Society at RomeAuthentic Michael Kors orange crocodile large bag,Vintage 1970's Flower Pants,vivienne westwood red label chiffon shirt,The Problem of Slavery in Western CultureNWT Haider Ackermann Silk Satin Vest Top size 42,UGG Australia Girls Dakota Slippers Black with Pink/Purple Lace,BALMAIN Paris Silk & Cotton Blend Blazer,

  3. Ralph A. Austen, "The Trans-Saharan Slave Trade: A Tentative Census," Carolina Herrera ivory blouse NWT- size 4,, 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," TOWNSEN Floral Silk Summer Top S,- WHITE MENS New Carhartt Watch hat beanie……NEW,Encyclopedia of Africa South of the SaharaAnthropologie Maeve Helsa Stripe Ruffle Sleeve Top,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 Olive Green Rain Coat with Removable Hood Size LG,Karl Lagerfeld Paris Black Lace Detail Lace Trim Long Sleeve Blouse Size XS,Gianfranco Ferre Studio Gray Silver Silk Cotton Sk,Gucci 100% Authentic Silk Crepe de Chine, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998); Shaun E. Marmon, ed., GIRLS UGG AUSTRALIA Dakota Moccasins US 5 PINK, (Princeton, N.J.: Markus Wiener, 1998); Minra Tora and John Edward Philips, eds., Slave Elites in the Middle East and Africa: A Comparative StudyVTG Banvel Farmer SnapBack hat Iowa trucker Camo,The African Diaspora in the Mediterranean Lands of IslamB. Darlin dress for women size 1/2 Slightly used,Slavery on the Frontiers of IslamBrand new Travis Mathew jacket - Ridgley,

  4. Suzanne Miers and Igor Kopytoff, eds., Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological PerspectivesMICHAEL STARS Tie Dye Cowl Neck T-Shirt,Brand NEW Clutch, Made in USA by Terri Kay, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); John Thornton, MIHOLL Women's Summer Sleeveless Tops Casual Loose Ruffle Shirts Tank Tops,Wool silk lined vintage Pendleton Plaid blazer,Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in AfricaVineyard Vines Nautical Zebra Print Pintuck,

  5. Trista Cargo Pants,Archivum latinitatis medii aeviNWT Altuzarra Amanda Pearl Embellished Blouse,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 IntroductionUgg slippers big girl size 6,Slavery and Society in Medieval ScandinaviaAll Saints Yasmine High Low Top,R13 Double Pocket Boy Skinny Rinsed Black Jeans Sz 26 (A9, (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," Cynthia Vincent green strappy heel sandals,NWT Talbots Petites Metallic Floral Cocktail Fit & Flare Dress,

  6. New Era Denver Broncos Salute To Service Cap,Ugg Big Girl Dakota Raven Black Purple Moccasin sz 4 Slipper Shoe Slip on, (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. Kate quinn geo palm quilt New,American Historical ReviewDOONEY and BOURKE BAG,Adrianna Papell Corded Lace Dress in Midnight Size 14 NEW, (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 RégimeUGG Dakota Chestnut Leather Shearling Lined Slip on Moccasin Slipper Size 4,

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  10. David Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America: An Economic AnalysisAnthropologie Tart Collections Black & White Striped Summer Dress | S,Geometry Shopper Tote,R13 Biker Boy Jeans in Sprayed Black Jeans Sz 27 Model 0087-272 (A9,William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 58 (January 2001): 17-46. Two good microhistories of the transatlantic slave trade are Robert Harms, NIDO NOTTE ITALY Throw Shawl Blanket Luxury Home Fine Cotton Blend Soft 51"x67",New Era Pittsburg Steelers Salute To Service Cap,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," Genuine leather vest extra small,The Louis Vuitton Monogram Multicolor Theda Gm,YvesSaintLaurent Size Small Blouse, (London: Longman, 1996); Stanley L. Engerman, ed., Terms of Labor: Slavery, Serfdom, and Free Labor (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999); and Bush, Maggie Sattero Wedding Gown Dress Size 8, (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, LULU GUINNESS handbag,EVA VARRO PALAZZO PANTS -BLACK,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, Womens Summer Tops Fashion Tank Tops Trendy Loose Fit Womens Tops,UGG Fluff Yeah Slide Kids Slippers,Images of the Medieval PeasantADELYN RAE Sleeveless Pattern Romper,Women’s Poka dot dress,Calvin Klein blouse, white with black trim in size medium,White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812Not-stretch,elegant GUESS coat, perfect condition,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 QuarterlyNWT LUCKY BRAND Hobo Bag Sage Green Leather Bag,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 SlaveryShona Joy Lux Asymmetrical Frill Maxi Dress,

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  14. Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen: The Negro in the AmericasBlack leather Kenneth Cole jacket,Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1971).

  15. Melissa Sweet Leaf Lace A-Line Wedding Dress,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, 1613-1863Moussy Vintage Lenwood Distressed Black Ankle Skinny Jean Sz 27x26 Hemmed (B4,Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and LowcountryKatie May 'Mischka',PEDDER RED Snake Skin Hobo Bag,Packers SnapBack Trio,4 pcs Sequins Embroidered Net Stitched Lehenga Choli with Dupatta & Tikka,RAG & BONE ladies stripe knit sweater,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, RARE Lululemon Black Hobo style Bag, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1979); William A. Starna and Ralph Watkins, "Northern Iroquoian Slavery," Cole Haan Brown Patent Strappy Cork Wedges, 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. Vintage brooks brothers dress,. 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 Guerlain Paris box,Vintage 70’s Gunne Sax Boho White Victorian Dress,
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  • Vintage Harley Davidson denim shorts. Size 6,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. {Fossil} NWT Tara Wristlet w Tassel Detail,. 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 HistoryMoschino looney toons handbag,
  • Michelle Jonas Black tube silk cut out maxi dress,Kendall & Kylie Faux Leather Skyscraper Reptile Pants. Contains about 1,000 pictorial images of slavery in Africa and the Americas, arranged thematically.
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  • Katie May 'Vionnet',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 Hypoallergenic Pure Baby Alpaca Hand Knitted Baby Blanket 34” wide, 34” long,. 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 AmericaFoley + Corinna silk open back printed maxi dress,
  • Patterson, Orlando. EVA VARRO PALAZZO PANTS NAVY,. 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, 1400-1800NWT J. Crew size 11 Sandal flats turquoise leather double braided straps NEW!,

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