Back Cover Blurb
- The story of slavery – from the ancient world to the present day
- In this panoramic history, leading historian Jeremy Black explores slavery from its origins – the uprising of Spartacus and the founding of the plantations in the Indies – to its contemporary manifestations as human-trafficking and bonded labour.
- Black reveals how slavery served to consolidate empires and shape New World societies such as America and Brazil, and the way in which slave trading across the Atlantic changed the Western world. He assesses the controversial truth behind the complicity of Africans within the trade, which continued until the long, hard fight for abolition in the nineteenth century. Black gives voice to both the campaigners who fought for an end to slavery, and the slaves who spoke of their misery.
- In this comprehensive and thoughtful account of the history of slavery, the role of slavery in the modern world is examined and Black shows that it is still widespread today in many countries.
Abbreviations – ix
Preface – xi
Introduction – 1
- Pre-1500 – 12
- The Age of Conquest, 1500-1600 – 51
- The Spread of Capitalist Slavery, 1600-1700 – 69
- Slavery Before Abolitionism, 1700-1780 – 102
- Revolution, Abolitionism and the Contrasting Fortunes of the Slave Trade and Slavery, 1780-1850 – 152
- The End of Slavery, 1830-1930? – 192
- A Troubled Present, 1930-2011 – 230
- Legacies and Conclusions – 246
Notes – 260
Selected Further Reading – 300
Index – 303
Amazon Book Description1
- A thought-provoking and important book that raises essential issues crucial not only for our past but also the present day.
- In this panoramic history, Jeremy Black tells how slavery was first developed in the ancient world, and reaches all the way to present day and the contemporary crimes of trafficking and bonded labour. He shows how slavery has taken many forms throughout history and across the world - from the uprising of Spartacus, the plantations of the Indies, and the murderous forced labour of the gulags and concentration camps.
- Slavery helped consolidated transoceanic empires and helped mould new world societies such as America and Brazil.
- In the Atlantic trade, Black also looks at the controversial area of how complicit the African peoples were in the trade. He then charts the long fight for abolition in the 19th century, including both the campaigners as well as the lost voices of the slaves themselves who spoke of their misery.
- Finally, as Black points out, slavery has not been completely abolished today and coerced labour can be found closer to home than is comfortable.
- Jeremy Black is, according to Andrew Roberts2, the most underrated historian in Britain. MBE and Professor of History at Exeter University. He is the author of over 100 books and is one of the most respected military historians in the world. He is a Member of the Council of the Royal Historical Society.
- I have to admit to having purchased this book in the hope of getting a balanced account of slavery rather than one that simply focuses on the Atlantic slave trade as though slavery was invented by the British.
- That said, the (pre-BLM) focus on the leading role played by the British in the abolition of slavery rather than in their3 previous usage thereof is also unbalanced.
- I’d normally copy in an Amazon review, but they are rather a poor selection. Most seem happy with the content but complain about the style. One 5-star review – which sounds like it was written by an unreconstructed illiterate fascist – says some things I tend to agree with (and much that I don’t or would have expressed differently).
- Having now read the book, I have the following brief comments:-
- I agree with the Amazon reviewers that the style leaves something to be desired, especially in the first half of the book (though maybe I just got used to it by the second half). It’s highly compressed – presumably to fit into the “Brief History of …” format. It reads like a 1,000-page book compressed into 300 pages.
- As it’s trying to redress the balance against the view that slavery was defined by the Atlantic trade and was a purely European exploitation of Africa it does come across somewhat as special pleading on occasion.
- Still, while it doesn’t excuse those involved in the Atlantic trade it’s important to remember that the Arabs and the Africans themselves had been involved in slavery for centuries, and having this side of things pointed out provides a sense of balance.
- It’s important to note that – in general – slave raiding by Europeans didn’t take place in Africa (if only because the climate and indigenous diseases were so antipathetic to Europeans). However, this did occur in the Americas (raiding indigenous Americans, particularly in South America).
- Also, while it’s certainly true that the Nazis employed slave labour on an industrial scale, they are such outliers in European history that they are usually left on the margins as an anomaly. Also, the ultimate – and usually rapid – demise of the slaves (at least the Jews, Slavs and other “undesirables”) was a matter of intent rather than “collateral damage”. But the Nazis are an anachronistic reminder that slavery had tended to be the fate of defeated populations, at least where the populations are sufficiently “other” not to be treated as the equals of the conquering population.
- Even so, it is good (or sad) to be reminded that slavery has been endemic throughout history in all societies at one time or another, and is still not eradicated today.
- While it’s true that slavery was instituted for economic (or punitive) reasons, its eradication has been a moral crusade rather than an economic one (along the lines that other sorts of power were available by the end of the eighteenth century, as is sometimes alleged). Today, where slavery survives, economic exploitation is the driver.
- Much more could be said …
- I would have liked to see an analysis of just why slave owners and the users of the products of slavery acted (and act) as they did (and do). I am sure there’s an analogy with our present-day treatment of non-human sentient beings, and the much worse treatment of them (and one another) in the past. Most of us put the plight of the subjugated out of our minds. Those directly involved probably have false beliefs about their victims (tacitly shared by most). There’s also – sadly – an analogy with the role of the West (at least until the rest of the world caught up). The West was just better at it, for reasons unrelated to putative racial superiority.
In-Page Footnotes ("Black (Jeremy) - A Brief History of Slavery")
Footnote 2: Footnote 3:
- I copied this in – such is my practice – before receiving the book. It is now superfluous.
- No-one seems to say “our”!
Robinson (18 Aug. 2011)
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)