The history of slavery
covers many different forms of human exploitation across many cultures
and throughout human history. Slavery, generally defined, refers to the
systematic exploitation of labor for work and services without consent
and/or the possession of other persons as property. There is no clear
timeline for the formation of slavery in any formalized sense. Slavery
can be traced to the earliest records, such as the Code of Hammurabi,
which refers to slavery as an already established institution.
Slavery in Arabia, the Ottoman Empire and the
- For Muslim views on slavery, see Religion and slavery.
The Arab world has traded in slaves like many other
cultures of the region. It was one of the oldest slave trades, predating
the European transatlantic slave trade by hundreds
of years. The Arab or Middle Eastern slave trade is thought to have originated
with trans-Saharan slavery. The Moors, starting in the
8th century, raided coastal areas of
the Mediterranean and Northern European (including
British and even as far north as Scandinavian)
coastal areas and would carry away sometimes whole villages
to the Moorish slave markets on the Barbary Coast. Nautical traders from
the United States became targets, and frequent victims,
of the Barbary pirates, as soon as that nation began trading with Europe
and refused to pay the required tribute to the North African states. The
slave trade from East Africa to Arabia was dominated by Arab and African
traders in the coastal cities of Zanzibar, Dar Es Salaam and Mombasa.
Male slaves were employed as servants, soldiers, or laborers by their
owners, while female slaves, mostly from Africa, were long traded to Middle
Eastern countries and kingdoms by Arab, Indian, or Oriental traders, some
as female servants, others as sexual slaves. Arab, Indian, and Oriental
traders were involved in the capture and transport of slaves northward
across the Sahara desert and the Indian Ocean region
into Arabia and the Middle East, Persia, and the Indian subcontinent.
As many African slaves may have crossed the Sahara Desert,
the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean as crossed the Atlantic, perhaps more.
Some sources estimate that between 11 and 17 million slaves crossed the
Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Sahara Desert from 650 to 1900, compared to
11.6 million across the Atlantic from 1500 to the late 1860s. The Arab
or Middle Eastern slave trade continued into the early 1900s.
Many Slavic males from the Balkans,
and Turkic and Circassian males
from the Caucasus Mountains and the eastern
Black Sea regions were taken away from their
homes and families and enlisted into special soldier
classes of the army of the Ottoman Empire.
The Arab trade in slaves continued
into the 20th century. Written travelogues and other
historical works are replete with references to slaves owned by wealthy
traders, nobility and heads of state in the Arabian Peninsula well
into the 1920s. Slave owning and slave-like working conditions
have been documented up to and including the present, in countries of
the Middle East. Though the subject is considered
taboo in the affected regions, a leading Saudi
government cleric and author of the country's
religious curriculum has called for the outright
re-legalization of slavery.
French historian Fernand Braudel noted that slavery was endemic in Africa
and part of the structure of everyday life. "Slavery came in different
guises in different societies: there were court slaves, slaves
incorporated into princely armies, domestic and household slaves, slaves
working on the land, in industry, as couriers and intermediaries, even
as traders" (Braudel 1984 p. 435). During the 16th century, Europe began
to outpace the Arab world in the export traffic, with its slave traffic
from Africa to the Americas. The Dutch imported slaves from Asia into
their colony in South Africa. Later, the United Kingdom, which held vast
colonial territories on the African continent (including South Africa),
made the practice of slavery illegal in these regions. Ironically, the
end of the slave trade and the decline of slavery was imposed upon Africa
by its European conquerors. This action is what today may be called an
instance of cultural imperialism.
The nature of the slave societies differed greatly across
the continent. There were large plantations worked by slaves in Egypt,
the Sudan and Zanzibar, but this was not a typical use of slaves in Africa
as a whole. In some slave societies, slaves were protected and incorporated
into the slave-owning family. In others, slaves were
brutally abused, and even used for human sacrifices.
Some of the slaves taken by the European slave trade were doubtless slave-owners
in North Africa
As practiced in ancient Egypt, slavery was not in accord with the modern
view of the term. Persons became "slaves" in ancient Egypt by virtue
of being captives (or prisoners) of war, committing criminal
or other indecent acts, or indebtedness. In many instances, some peasants
in ancient Egypt led better livelihoods as slaves than as free
persons: some Egyptian peasants purposely sold themselves into slavery
as a means of repaying their debts. Though slaves in
ancient Egypt could be sold, inherited or offered as gifts, they were
not prohibited from learning, achieving greater social rank, purchasing
property or negotiating other contracts. One papyrus from the New Kingdom
even records masters being testified against by slave witnesses. Slave
children apparently enjoyed some authoritative protection, as a letter
from the 18th dynasty records limits to their use for harsh labor, and
Egyptian households further bore the responsibility of adequately raising
children of slave parents. It's also worth mentioning that slaves were
not as extensively used in ancient Egypt (Kemet) contrary to popular belief
or the stories depicted in the Bible, one such measure is the recent archaeological
discovery regarding the pyramids not being built
In the 15th and 16th centuries slaves were imported from Europe to North
Africa. Slave-taking persisted into the 19th century when Barbary pirates
would capture ships and enslave the crew. In all, about 1.5 million Europeans
were transported to the Barbary Coast. It was a period when Europe was
preoccupied by sectarian wars and European navies were depleted. The trade
was run by expelled Moors and the slaving expeditions were often captained
by Europeans with North African crews. In the early 19th century, European
powers started to take action to free Christian slaves.
The first major action was the bombardment of Algiers in 1816.
in Sub-Saharan Africa
See African slave trade
Slaves being transported in Africa, 19th century engraving.
Prior to the 16th century, the bulk of slaves exported from Africa were
shipped from East Africa to the Arabian peninsula. Zanzibar
became a leading port on this trade. Arab slave traders differed from
European traders in that they would often conduct raiding expeditions
themselves, sometimes penetrating deep into the continent. They also differed
in that their market greatly preferred the purchase of female slaves over
The increased presence of European rivals along the East coast led Arab
traders to concentrate on the overland slave caravan routes across
the Sahara from the Sahel to North Africa. The German explorer Gustav
Nachtigal reported seeing slave caravans departing from Kukawa in Bornu
bound for Tripoli and Egypt in 1870. The slave trade represented the major
source of revenue for the state of Bornu as late as 1898. Further south,
the eastern regions of the Central African Republic have never recovered
demographically from the impact of nineteenth-century raids from the Sudan
and still have a population density of less than 1 person/km.
The Middle Passage, the crossing of the Atlantic to the Americas, endured
by slaves laid out in rows in the holds of ships,
was only one element of the well-known triangular trade engaged in
by Portuguese, Dutch, French and British.
Ships having landed slaves in Caribbean ports would take
on sugar, indigo, raw cotton, and later coffee, and make for Liverpool,
Nantes, Lisbon or Amsterdam. Ships leaving European ports for West Africa
would carry printed cotton textiles, some originally from India, copper
utensils and bangles, pewter plates and pots, iron bars more valued than
gold, hats, trinkets, gunpowder and firearms and alcohol. Tropical shipworms
were eliminated in the cold Atlantic waters, and at each unloading, a
profit was made.
The Atlantic slave trade peaked in the late 18th century, when the largest
number of slaves were captured on raiding expeditions
into the interior of West Africa. These expeditions were typically carried
out by coastal African kingdoms through more formal trade agreements with
European traders or by slave raiding parties through more informal bounty
agreements with European traders( To see Pedro Blanco). The people
captured on these expeditions were shipped by European traders to the
colonies of the New World. As a result of the War of Spanish Succession,
the United Kingdom obtained the monopoly (asiento
de negros) of transporting captive Africans to Spanish America. It
is estimated that over the centuries, twelve to twenty million
people were shipped as slaves from Africa by European traders,
of whom some 15 percent died during the terrible voyage,
many during the arduous journey through the Middle Passage. The great
majority were shipped to the Americas, but also went to Europe and the
south of Africa.
Some historians conclude that the total loss in persons removed, those
who died on the arduous march to coastal slave marts and those
killed in slave raids, far exceeded
the 65–75 million inhabitants remaining in Sub-Saharan
Africa at the trade's end. Others believe that slavers had a vested interest
in capturing rather than killing, and in keeping their captives alive;
and that this coupled with the disproportionate removal of males and the
introduction of new crops from the Americas (cassava, maize) would have
limited general population decline to particular regions of western Africa
around 1760–1810, and in Mozambique and neighbouring areas half a century
later. There has also been speculation that within Africa, females were
most often captured as brides, with their male protectors being a "bycatch"
who would have been killed if there had not been an export market for
Slavery persists in Africa more than in all other continents.
Slavery in Mauritania was legally abolished by laws passed in 1905, 1961,
and 1981, but several human rights organizations are reporting that the
practice continues there. The trading of children has
been reported in modern Nigeria and Benin.
In parts of Ghana, a family may be punished for an offense
by having to turn over a virgin female to serve as a sex slave within
the offended family. In this instance, the woman does not gain the title
of "wife". In parts of Ghana, Togo, and Benin, shrine slavery persists,
despite being illegal in Ghana since 1998. In this system of slavery,
sometimes called trokosi (in Ghana) or voodoosi in Togo and Benin, or
ritual servitude, young virgin girls are given as slaves
in traditional shrines and are used sexually by the priests
in addition to providing free labor for the shrine. In the Sudan,
slavery continues as part of an ongoing civil
war; see also the Slavery in Sudan article.
Evidence emerged in the late 1990s of systematic slavery in cacao plantations
in West Africa. See the chocolate and slavery
Europe and Mediterranean
The ancient Mediterranean civilizations
Slavery in the ancient Mediterranean
cultures was known to occur in civilizations as old as Sumer, and found
in every such civilization, including Ancient Egypt,
the Akkadian Empire, Assyria, Greece,
Rome, parts of the Roman Empire and the Islamic
Caliphate. Such institutions were a mixture of debt-slavery, punishment
for crime, the enslavement of prisoners of war, child
abandonment, and the birth of slave children
Slavery was an important element in the development of the ancient Greek
City-states. Records of slavery in Ancient
Greece go as far back as Mycenaean Greece. The treatment of Greek
slaves could be said to be harsh, but not extremely brutal.
As Rome expanded outward, entire populations
were enslaved, thus creating an ample supply. The people
subjected to Roman
Slavery came from all over Europe and the Mediterranean.
Such oppression by an elite minority eventually led to
slave revolts (see Roman
Servile Wars); the Third Servile War led by Spartacus being the most famous
and severe. Greeks, Africans, Germans, Thracians,
Gauls (or Celts), Jews, Arabs,
and many more. Not only were slaves used for labor, but
also for amusement (e.g. gladiators). If a slave
from Rome ran away, he was crucified.
By the late Republican era, slavery had become a vital economic
pillar in the wealth of Rome. Slavery was so common, the
slaves in Rome far outnumbered the Roman citizens.
 The Vikings
In the Viking era starting c. 793, the Norse raiders
often captured and enslaved their opponents. In Norway
and Iceland the slaves were called Thralls (Norse: Træl).
The thralls were mostly from Western Europe, among them
many Franks, Irish and Anglo-Saxons.
There is evidence of German and south European
slaves as well.
Tudor, Stuart and Hanoverian England
The trade in serfs in England was made illegal
in 1102, and the last form
of enforced servitude (villeinage) had disappeared in
Britain by the beginning of the seventeenth century. However,
by the eighteenth century African slaves began to be brought into London
and Edinburgh as personal servants. In a number of judicial decisions
between slave merchants, it was tacitly accepted that slavery of Africans
In 1729 the then-Attorney General and Solicitor General of England signed
slavery opinion expressing their view (and, by implication, that of
the Government) that slavery of Africans was lawful
in England. At this time slaves were openly bought and sold on
markets at London and Liverpool.
However, in 1772 a runaway slave named James Somerset was recaptured,
and various abolitionists brought legal proceedings demanding
his release, forcing a legal decision for the first time
under English law as to the legality of a slave's detention.
One of Somerset's lawyers, Francis Hargrave, stated "In 1569, during
the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a lawsuit was brought against a man for
beating another man he had bought as a slave overseas. The record states,
'That in the 11th [year] of Elizabeth , one Cartwright brought a
slave from Russia and would scourge him; for which he
was questioned; and it was resolved, that England was too pure an air
for a slave to breathe in.' " He argued that the court had ruled in
Cartwright's case that English Common Law made no provision
for slavery, and without a basis for its legality, slavery
would otherwise be unlawful as false imprisonment
and/or assault. In his judgment of 22 June 1772, Lord Chief
Justice William Murray, Lord Mansfield, of the Court of King's Bench declared:
"Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from a decision, I cannot
say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore
the black must be discharged." Several different reports
of Mansfield's long deliberated, but ultimately very short, decision appeared,
and most disagree as to what was actually said. The decision was only
given orally, and so no formal written record of it was issued by the
court. Abolitionists widely circulated the view that it was declared that
the condition of slavery did not exist under English law, although Mansfield
himself later said that all that he actually decided was that a slave
could not be forcibly removed from England against
In the 17th century, slavery was used as punishment by conquering English
Parliament armies against native Catholics in Ireland. Between the years
1659 and 1663, during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland by the New Model
Army, under the command of Oliver Cromwell, thousands
of Irish Catholics were forced into slavery. Cromwell had a deep religious
dislike of the Catholic religion, and many Irish Catholics who had participated
in Confederate Ireland had all their land confiscated and were transported
to the British West Indies as slaves.
The Church was later implicated in slavery. Slaves owned
by the Anglican Church's Society
for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts on its sugar plantations
in the West Indies had the word "society" branded
on their chests with red-hot irons.
When slaves were emancipated through the British Parliament in 1834 the
British Government paid compensation to slave owners. In one case the
Bishop of Exeter and three business colleagues got
compensation for the 665 slaves they had to
Recently (2006), Southwark Bishop
Thomas Butler, at the Anglican Church's General Synod stated
"The profits from the slave trade were
part of the bedrock of our country's industrial
In that time second serfdom took
place in Eastern Europe during this period (particularly
in Austria, Hungary, Prussia,
Russia and Poland). Only in 1768 was
a law passed in Poland that discontinued the nobility's control of the
right to life or death of serfs. Serfdom remained the
practice on the most part of territory of Russia until February 19, 1861.
Some of the Roma people were enslaved over five centuries
in Romania until abolition in 1864.
Slavery in the French Republic was abolished on February 4, 1794.
Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazi regime created many Arbeitslager
(labour camps) in Germany and Eastern Europe. Prisoners in Nazi labour
camps were worked to death on short rations and in bad
conditions, or killed if they became unable to
Between 1930 and 1960, the Soviet regime
created many Lageria (labour camps) in Siberia. Prisoners
in Soviet labor camps were worked to death
on extreme production quotas, brutality, hunger and harsh elements. Fatality
rate was as high as 80% during the first months in many camps. Millions
died as a direct result of forced labour under the Soviets.
in the Americas
among indigenous people of America
In Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica the most common forms of
slavery were those of prisoners-of-war and debtors.
People unable to pay back a debt could be sentenced to work as a slave
to the person owed until the debt was worked off. Slavery was not usually
hereditary; children of slaves were born free. In Tahuantinsuyu (or Inca
Empire), workers were subject to a mita in lieu of taxes which they paid
by working for the government. Each ayllu, or extended family, would decide
which family member to send to do the work.
During the colonial epoch, slavery was a mainstay of the Brazilian
economy, especially in mining and sugar cane production.
Brazil obtained 37% of all African slaves traded, and more than 3
million slaves were sent to this one country. Starting around
1550, the Portuguese began to trade African slaves
to work the sugar plantations once the native Tupi people deteriorated.
Although Portuguese Prime Minister Marquês do Pombal abolished slavery
in mainland Portugal on the February 12th, 1761, slavery continued in
her overseas colonies. The African slaves were useful for the sugar plantations
in many ways. First, African slaves were less vulnerable to tropical diseases
and to tropical conditions. Second, the benefits of the slaves far exceeded
the costs. After 2-3 years, slaves worked off their worth, and plantation
owners began to make profits from them. Plantation owners made lucrative
profits even though there was approximately a 10% death rate per year,
mainly due to harsh working conditions.
The very harsh manual labour of the sugar cane fields saw slaves use
hoes to dig large trenches. The slaves planted sugar cane in the trenches
and then used their bare hands to spread manure. The average life
span of a slave was eight years.
Escaped slaves formed Maroon communities
which played an important role in the histories of Brazil and other countries
such as Suriname, Puerto Rico, Cuba,
and Jamaica. In Brazil the Maroon villages were called
palenques or quilombos. Maroons survived by growing vegetables and hunting.
They also raided plantations. At these attacks, the maroons would burn
crops, steal livestock and tools, kill slavemasters,
and invite other slaves to join their communities.
In the mid to late 19th century, many Amerindians were enslaved to work
on rubber plantations. See I?? for more information.
The Clapham Sect, a group of evangelical reformers, campaigned during
much of the 19th century for the United Kingdom to use its influence and
power to stop the traffic of slaves to Brazil. Besides moral qualms, the
low cost of slave-produced Brazilian sugar meant that British colonies
in the West Indies were unable to match the market prices of Brazilian
sugar, and each Briton was consuming 16 pounds (7 kg) of sugar a year
by the 19th century. This combination led to intensive pressure from the
British government for Brazil to end this practice, which it did by steps
over several decades.
First, foreign slave trade was banned in
1850. Then, in 1871, the sons of the slaves were freed.
In 1885, the slaves aged over 60 years were freed. The Paraguay war contributed
to end slavery, since slaves enlisted in exchange for freedom.(In Colonial
Brazil, slavery was more a social than a racial condition. In fact, some
of the greatest figures of the time, like the writer Machado de Assis
and the engineer André Rebouças had black ancestry).
Brazil's 1877-78 Grande Seca (Great Drought) in the cotton-growing northeast,
led to major turmoil, starvation, poverty and internal migration. As wealthy
plantation holders rushed to sell their slaves south, popular resistance
and resentment grew, inspiring numerous emancipation societies. They succeeded
in banning slavery altogether in the province of Ceara by 1884. (Mike
Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts, 88-90) Slavery
was legally ended nationwide on May 13 by
the Lei Aurea ("Golden Law") of 1888. In fact,
it was an institution in decadence at these times (Since the 1880's the
country began to use European imigrant labor instead)
. Brazil was the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery.
in the British and French Caribbean
Slavery was commonly used in the parts of the Caribbean controlled by
France and the British Empire. The Lesser
Antilles islands of Barbados, St. Kitts,
Antigua, Martinique and Guadeloupe,
which were the first important slave societies of the Caribbean, began
the widespread use of African slaves by the end of the
17th century, as their economies converted from tobacco to sugar production.
The slaves were treated terribly, often beaten and raped. They had such
miserable lives that death was considered a welcome release.
By the middle of the 18th century, British Jamaica and
French Saint-Domingue had become the largest
slave societies of the region, rivaling Brazil as a destination
for enslaved Africans. Due to overwork, the death rates
for Caribbean slaves were greater than birth rates. The
conditions led to increasing numbers of slave revolts,
escaped slaves forming Maroon communities and
fighting guerrilla wars against the plantation owners, campaigns against
slavery in Europe, and the abolition of slavery in the European empires.
in North America
Main Articles: Slavery in Colonial
America, Slavery in Canada, History
of slavery in the United States, Atlantic slave trade
The first slaves used by Europeans in United States
territory were among Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón's colonization attempt of
North Carolina in 1526. The attempt was a failure, lasting only one year
and the slaves revolted and fled into the wilderness to live among the
The first historically significant slave in what would become the United
States was Estevanico, a Moroccan slave and member of
the Narváez expedition in 1528 and acted as a guide on Fray Marcos de
Niza's expedition to find the Seven Cities of Gold in 1539.
In 1619 twenty Africans were brought by a Dutch soldier and sold to the
English colony of Jamestown, Virginia as indentured servants. The transformation
from indentured servitude to racial slavery happened gradually. It wasn't
until 1661 that a reference to slavery entered into Virginia law, directed
at Caucasian servants who ran away with a black servant. It wouldn't be
until the Slave Codes of 1705
that the status of African Americans as slaves would be sealed. This status
would last for another 160 years, until after the end of the American
Civil War with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865.
of slavery to British law
- 1641 - Massachusetts becomes the first colony
to legalize slavery.
- 1650 - Connecticut legalizes slavery.
- 1661 - Virginia officially recognizes slavery
- 1662 - A Virginia statute declares that children born would have the
same status as their mother.
- 1663 - Maryland legalizes slavery.
- 1664 - Slavery is legalized in New York and
The first imported Africans were brought
as indentured servants, not slaves. They were required,
as white indentured servants were, to serve nine years. Many were brought
to the British North American colonies, specifically Jamestown, Virginia
in 1620. However, the slave trade did not immediately expand in North
America. Mexico and Canada had completely abolished slavery by 1810.
Slavery under European rule began with importation of
European indentured labourers, was followed by the enslavement
of indigenous peoples in the Caribbean, and
eventually was primarily replaced with Africans imported
through a large slave trade. Which cost around 105 American dollars.
The shift from indentured servants to African slaves was prompted by
a dwindling class of former servants who had worked through the terms
of their indentures and thus became competitors to their former masters.
These newly freed servants were rarely able to support themselves comfortably,
and the tobacco industry was increasingly dominated by large planters.
This caused domestic unrest culminating in Bacon's Rebellion. Eventually,
chattel slavery became the norm in regions dominated
Many slaves were owned by plantation owners who lived in Britain. The
British courts had made a series of contradictory rulings on the legality
of slavery which encouraged several thousand slaves
to flee the newly-independent United States as refugees along with the
retreating British in 1783. The British courts having ruled in 1772 that
such slaves could not be forcibly returned to North America (see James
Somersett and Somersett's Case for a review of the Somerset Decision),
the British Government resettled them as free men in Sierra Leone.
Several slave rebellions
took place during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Through the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (also known as the Freedom
Ordinance) under the Continental Congress, slavery was prohibited
in the territories north of the Ohio River. In the East, though, slavery
was not abolished until later. The importation of slaves into the United
States was banned on January 1, 1808;
but not the internal slave trade, or involvement in the international
slave trade externally.
Aggregation of northern free states gave rise to one
contiguous geographic area, north of the Ohio River and the old Mason-Dixon
line. This separation of a free North and an
enslaved South launched a massive political, cultural and economic
Refugees from slavery fled the South across the Ohio River to the North
via the Underground Railroad, and their presence agitated Northerners.
Midwestern state governments asserted States Rights arguments to refuse
Federal jurisdiction over fugitives. Some juries exercised their right
of jury nullification and refused to convict those indicted under the
Act of 1850.
The Dred Scott decision of 1857 asserted that one could take
one's property anywhere (Even if one's property was chattel and one crossed
into a free territory). It also asserted that African Americans could
not be citizens, as many Northern states granted blacks citizenship, who
(in some states) could even vote. This was an example of Slave Power, the plantation
aristocracy's attempt to control the North. This turned Northern public
opinion even further against slavery. After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska
Act, armed conflict broke out in Kansas Territory, where the question
of whether it would be admitted to the Union as a slave state or a free
state had been left to the inhabitants. The radical abolitionist
John Brown was active in the mayhem and killing in "Bleeding
Kansas." Anti-slavery legislators took office under the
banner of the Republican Party.
In the election of 1860, the Republicans swept Abraham Lincoln into the
Presidency (with only 39.8% of the popular vote) and legislators into
Congress. Lincoln however, did not appear on the ballots in most southern
states and his election split the nation along sectional lines. After
decades of controlling the Federal Government, the Southern states seceded
from the U.S. (the Union) to form the Confederate States of America.
Northern leaders like Lincoln viewed the prospect of
a new Southern nation, with control over the Mississippi River and the
West, as unacceptable. This led to the outbreak of the Civil War.
The Civil War spelled the end for chattel slavery in
America. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863
was a reluctant gesture that proclaimed freedom for slaves within the
Confederacy, although not those in strategically important Border states
or the rest of the Union. However, the proclamation made the abolition
of slavery an official war goal and it was implemented as the Union captured
territory from the Confederacy. Slaves in many parts of the south were
freed by Union armies or when they simply left their former owners. Many
joined the Union Army as workers or troops, and many more fled to Northern
Legally, slaves within the United States remained enslaved until
the final ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to
the Constitution on December 6, 1865 (with final recognition of the amendment
on December 18), eight months after the cessation of hostilities. Only
in the Border state of Kentucky did a significant slave population remain
by that time.
After the failure of Reconstruction, freed slaves in the United States
were treated as second class citizens. For decades after
their emancipation, many former slaves living in the South sharecropped
and had a low standard of living. In some states, it was only after the
civil rights movement of the 1950s and
60s that blacks obtained legal protection
from racial discrimination (see segregation).
Although slavery has been illegal in the United States for nearly a century
and a half, the United States Department of Labor occasionally prosecutes
cases against people for false imprisonment and involuntary servitude.
These cases often involve illegal immigrants who are
forced to work as slaves in factories to pay off a
debt claimed by the people who transported them into the United
States. Other cases have involved domestics.
The Greek historian Arrian writes in his book Indica:
- "This also is remarkable in India, that all Indians are
free, and no Indian at all is a slave. In this the Indians
agree with the Lacedaemonians. Yet the Lacedaemonians have Helots for
slaves, who perform the duties of slaves; but the Indians have no slaves
at all, much less is any Indian a slave."
Though any formalised slave trade has not existed in South Asia,
unfree labour has existed for centuries in the Medieval ages, in different
forms. The most common forms have been kinds of bonded labour. During
the epoch of the Mughals, debt bondage reached its peak,
and it was common for money lenders to make slaves of
peasants and others who failed to repay debts. Under these practices,
more than one generation could be forced into unfree labour; for example,
a son could be sold into bonded labour for life to pay
off the debt, along with interest.
Arab slave traders also brought slaves as early as the
first century AD from Africa. Most of the African slaves
were brought however in the 17th century and were taken into Western India.
Much of the northern and central parts of the subcontinent was ruled
by the so-called Slave Dynasty
of Turkic origin from 1206-1290: Qutb-ud-din Aybak, a
slave of Muhammad Ghori rose to power following his master's death. For
almost a century, his descendants ruled presiding over the introduction
of Tankas and building of Qutub Minar.
Slavery in China has repeatedly come in and out of favor. Due to the
enoromous population of the region throughout most of her history, China
has relatively had an almost unlimited workforce of cheap labor. Thus,
the economy would naturally rely on a system of serfdom, slavery,
or a combination of both.
Slavery in Japan was, for most of its history, indigenous,
since the export and import of slaves was restricted by Japan being a
group of islands. The export of a slave from Japan is recorded in 3rd
century Chinese history, although the system involved is unclear.
These slaves were called seiko (生口, seiko?),
lit. "living mouth".
In the 8th century, a slave was called nuhi (奴婢, nuhi?)
and series of laws on slavery was issued. In an area of present-day Ibaraki
prefecture, out of a population of 190,000, around 2,000 were slaves;
the proportion is believed to have been even higher in western Japan.
By the time of the Sengoku period (1467-1615), the attitude that slavery
was anachronistic had become widespread. In a meeting with Catholic
priests, Oda Nobunaga was presented with a black slave, the first
recorded encounter between a Japanese and an African. In 1588, Toyotomi
Hideyoshi ordered all slave trading to be abolished. This was continued
by his successors.
As the Empire of Japan annexed Asian countries, from the late 19th century
onwards, archaic institutions including slavery were abolished in those
countries. However, during the Pacific War of 1937-45, the Japanese military
used hundreds of thousands of civilians and prisoners of war as forced
labour, on projects such as the Burma Railway. (For further details, see
Japanese war crimes.)
Indigenous slaves existed in Korea. It is widely known
that the last names "Bang", "Ji", and "Chuk" are recognizable as last
names having once been given to slaves. Slavery was officially abolished
with the Gabo Reform of 1894.
/ New Zealand
In traditional Māori society, prisoners of war became slaves,
(unless released, ransomed or tortured). With some exceptions,
the child of a slave remained a slave. As far as it is
possible to tell slavery seems to have increased in the early Nineteenth
century, as a result of increased numbers of prisoners being taken by
Māori military leaders such as Hongi Hika and Te Rauparaha in the
Musket Wars, the need for labour to supply whalers and traders with food,
flax and timber in return for western goods and missionary condemnation
of cannibalism. Slavery was outlawed on English Annexation of New Zealand
in 1840, immediately prior to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, although
it did not end completely until government was effectively extended over
the whole of the country with the defeat of the King movement in the New
Zealand Wars of the mid 1860s.
children as young as 2 years old are forced to work up to 18 hours
a day as camel jockeys in the Middle East
- Pic by
Ansar Burney Trust
Children as young as two years old are used for slavery as child camel
jockeys across the Arab countries of the Middle East. Though
strict laws have been introduced recently in Qatar and
UAE - thanks to better awareness of the issue and lobbying by
human rights organisations such as the Ansar Burney Trust - the
use of children still continues in the far flung areas and during secret
night time races.
Slavery has existed, in one form or another, through the whole
of human history. So, too, have movements to free large or distinct
groups of slaves. Moses led Israelite slaves from ancient Egypt according
to the Biblical Book of Exodus - possibly the first detailed
account of a movement to free slaves. However, abolitionism should be
distinguished from efforts to help a particular group of slaves,
or to restrict one practice, such as the slave trade.
In 1772, a legal case concerning James Somersett made it illegal to remove
a slave from England against his will. A similar case, that of Joseph
Knight, took place in Scotland five years later and ruled slavery to be
contrary to the law of Scotland.
Following the work of campaigners in the United Kingdom, the Act
for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was
passed by Parliament on March 25, 1807. The act imposed a fine of £100
for every slave found aboard a British ship. The intention was to entirely
outlaw the slave trade within
the whole British Empire.
The Slavery Abolition
Act, passed on August 23, 1833, outlawed
slavery itself in the British colonies. On August 1, 1834 all slaves in
the British Empire were emancipated, but still indentured to their former
owners in an apprenticeship system which was finally abolished in 1838.
Proclamation of the abolition of slavery by Victor Hughes in the Guadeloupe,
the 1st November 1794
There were slaves in mainland France, but the institution
was never fully authorized there. However, slavery was
vitally important in France's Caribbean possessions,
especially Saint-Domingue. In 1793, unable to repress
the massive slave revolt of August 1791 that had become
the Haitian Revolution, the French Revolutionary commissioners Sonthonax
and Polverel declared general emancipation. In Paris, on February 4, 1794,
Abbé Grégoire and the Convention ratified this action by officially abolishing
slavery in all French territories. Napoleon sent troops to the Caribbean
in 1802 to try to re-establish slavery. They succeeded in Guadeloupe,
but the ex-slaves of Saint-Domingue defeated the French army and declared
independence. The colony became Haiti, the first black republic, on January
Sierra Leone was established as a country for former slaves of the British
Empire in Africa. Liberia served an analogous purpose for American slaves.
The goal of the abolitionists was repatriation of the slaves to Africa.
Also some trade unions did not want the cheap labour of former slaves
around. Nevertheless, most former slaves stayed in America.
Slaves in the United States who escaped ownership would often make their
way north to Canada via the "Underground Railroad". Famously active abolitionists
of the U.S. include Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass and
John Brown. Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865.
The 1926 Slavery Convention, an initiative of the League of Nations,
was a turning point in banning global slavery. Article 4
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted
in 1948 by the UN General Assembly, explicitly banned slavery. The
1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery
was convened to outlaw and ban slavery worldwide, including child slavery.
In December 1966, the UN General Assembly adopted the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, which was developed from the Universal
Declaraction of Human Rights. Article 8 of this international treaty bans
slavery. The treaty came into force in March 1976 after it had been ratified
by 35 nations. As of November 2003, 104 nations had ratified the treaty.
Slavery is defined as a crime against humanity by a
French law of 2001.