Slavery is not a new term to the world, as many people and researchers have made a remarkable effort to reconstruct the history of slavery and explain it to the people for their understanding. In general term, slavery is one of the painful things of human civilization. Slavery can be described as a situation where people (single or group of people) are owned as a property of a particular person (Slave master) and the people are treated as a thing, which can be selling or buying by another person in terms of Currencies or any material (gold, silver, or even grains). This all activities happened without the consent of the so-called slave (Eltis, & Richardson, 2013).The history of slavery is painful and should be considered as painful acts of human civilization, and it is also affecting our present society as well. Even, we are still fighting with this term in our world in some poor countries, where democracy and civilization are more behind than our expectations. In modern time, slavery considered as unethical in almost every country, but in our ancient time, it was the part of our society. Issues related to slavery first raised by the former president of America Abraham Lincoln. He said that slavery was against the principle of liberty and should be abolished from the country. He issued the emancipation of proclamation and declared that all people who held as the slave should be free in immediate effect (Dal-Lago, 2015). This essay will be focused on investigating the history of slavery and will further discuss the way it affects our contemporary society.
History of Slavery
Slavery is part of human civilization and it was as old as our human civilization. Even in modern days, we are facing this issue in some countries where people treated as a slave of prosperous people, having power, money, and wealth to control poor people. The slaves were forcibly taken away from their family and they are not allowed to meet their family members again. They were compelled to work hard for the slave master and they were treated very unfairly and ineptly. The slave master believes that they do not have any rights, as they were the slave. It was considered by many researchers that slavery starts from Egypt where people were detained by the emperor of the Country for misbehaving in the society (Parish, 2018). Many people sell their child in order to pay back their loan and some exchange their children in barter trade for cash and grains. Some researchers and authors think that slavery appears in the Mesopotamian code of Hammurabi in 1860 BC, which is assumed to be the origin place of slavery. Slavery is termed to be a part of ancient human civilization (Jakobsson & Kotsadam, 2013).
However, slavery is very rare in hunter-gatherer populations, because at that time it was developed as a system of social stratification. Slavery was also identified in the first civilization of human history called Sumer in Mesopotamia in back 3500 BC and it was also part of almost every other civilization. The large numbers of slaves were captured in the war as well. It has been said that Byzantine-Ottoman wars and the Ottoman wars in Europe were termed as the major event where large numbers of slaves capturing and trade of slaves (Grandin, 2014). Slavery became common in most of the European countries during the dark ages and it continued into the middle ages as well. Most of the countries such as Spanish, Portugal, France, Britain, Arab and number of West African countries and their kingdoms involved in slave trade, especially after 1600. After this, it has remained the same till 19tt century, where people are bondage against their will and treated by the slave master as their own property and they used slaves for merciless hard work. Even people captured in different wars and those peoples who trapped in the bondage are also declared as a slave of a slave master. The Republic of Dubrovnik was the first European countries that ban the slave trade in 1416, and in modern times, it was Denmark-Norway in 1802 (Colleyn, 2015). Although, slavery is as old as our civilization, in fact, our oldest civilization called Sumer, and almost including all other civilizations such as ancient Egypt, China, Ancient Greece, Babylonia, Assyria, Akkadian Empire, India, Roman Empire, Arab and pre-Columbian civilization of the Americas etc. The cause of slavery was different in all the countries such as debt-slavery, those people who captured in the war or prisoners, punishment for crime, child abandonment, and even the children of Slaves are also treated as slaves in these countries (Stevenson, 2013).
O’Connel is one of the scholar writers and PhD in sociology tells about the issues behind slavery and focuses on the issues of racial disparities and poverty. In her article, the author focuses on how poverty and racial inequalities cause poverty in South-America. In her article, O’Connel related the history of slavery with the present situation in the USA and said it was the responsible cause for "shaping the current U.S racial inequality pattern." Further, she added in her article that the relation is independent from social, economic, and demographic conditions were also responsible for the income inequality and were one of the primary causes of Slavery in southern states of America (O'Connell, 2012).
Apart from this, Nunn and Wantchekon were two authors who also investigated the long-term effect of the slave trade in Africa. These two authors in their article said that African populations, whose ancestors suffered from the slave trade and talk about the government intentions and their failure in gaining trusts in the people. They further claim that the impact of slave trade factors in internal to the individual and encompasses cultural norms and values. Slave trade is common in African countries and especially in sub-Saharan African regions before the Arab, Europeans, and Berbers involvement in those countries. In African countries, slave master barters their slaves to other countries such as Arab, Turk, Berbers, and European Countries (Nunn &Wantchekon, 2011).
In the Asian region, slavery was the backbone of the Brazilian colonial economy. Sugarcane production and mining industry were known for the large numbers of slavery involvement. 35.3% of all slaves trade involved in the Atlantic Slave trade that was more than 4 million slaves acquired by Brazil. After 1550, the Portuguese began to trade African slaves to the sugar plantations and mining sector countries. However, after 1761, the Portuguese Prime minister Sebastiao Jose de Crlvalho e Melo, abolished slavery in mainland Portugal on 12 February 1761.
In modern time, any slavery incident has not been seen yet on regular basis. However, Nigeria and Ghana have been reported as child slavery and trading of child labours between Nigeria and Benin. Some African countries are also known for the sex slave, where a virgin female serve as a sex slave. In this instance, the woman is not considered as the wife of that person who bought her as a slave. As a study, more than 800,000 people are enslaved which was almost 8% of the Nigerian population, then Nigeria employed an anti-slavery provision in 2003 to protect people from slavery (Joseph, 2013). Although, the concept of human slavery again in tradition because of the few terror groups acquire people and force them for slavery. Iraq and Syria are the recent examples, where IS group doing such a worst thing with the people, who are captured by them. The Terrorist group ISIS (new name IS) forcibly captured people from Iraq and Syria who mostly includes children and women and sell them as a sex slave.
Impact of Slavery on Contemporary Society
Life, freedom, happiness, and prosperity simply did not seem consistent with the chattel slavery practices. If we consider most of the argument in favour of slavery, then we can say that it was the way of life through which most of the countries and economic world power focused on economic development and their growth. Slavery was used to provide much needed and extremely good labour for economic development such as UK, USA and some Asian countries such as Japan and China (Campbell, & Alpers, 2013). However, Slavery was not started just for economic development rather it was used to prove the superiority on people and show to other countries or kingdoms, where white race saw a helpless people and decided to exploit them (Li, 2017). Hence, we can say that racism was one of the integral parts of slavery. Even the world is still fighting with slavery in poor countries such as some African and Asian countries, where democracy and civilization are more behind than our expectations. In modern times, slavery considered as unethical in almost every country, but even though it is not demolished from our society. Even though human rights only reached in those countries where they can access such a scenario, but what about those places and regions where we cannot enter.
Most of the people think that racism ended with slavery and black people fought for their rights in different movements. However, the reality is that racism that is direct production of slavery is still can be seen today in most of the African, European, and American countries. The terms human trafficking and sex trafficking are still used in modern day. It clearly shows that the impact of slavery is not wholly demolished from our modern society. Slavery is still alive in our society and in fact, it has been practised by more educated and prosperous people (Ditlmann, Purdie-Vaughns, Dovidio, & Naft, 2017). Although it is a crime and unethical as well, still some people use slavery as their birthrights to make slave. The another impact of slavery on classism system that is still very ostensible in our society today. Slavery brought is another cause that creates classes in the societies such as African Americans were manifested in the society and they are divided into classes. It has been assumed by many people that African Americans still responsible for most of the poverty in the USA, and it has been considered that the unemployment percentage among them is more than 13% (Bindas, 2010).
The history of slavery and anti-slavery is much more than a useful source of inspiration and instruction that guides us how we should act today. This history of slavery also tells about how we should not act. Perhaps the most significant lesson we have experienced from the past history of slavery is that slavery not only affects those people who were enslaved rather it affects the mentality of those people who somehow experience this strain of discrimination and disparity (Bezemer, Bolt, & Lensink, 2014). It trickles intensely into all facets of our society and those people who belong to these societies.
Slavery can be termed as ‘original sin’ of the human civilization. Even though there are large numbers of countries ban slavery in the country and passed some strict law against this, but still, it is existing in our modern society. We often listen to terms like ‘human trafficking' and ‘child slavery'. Even one of the most developed countries the USA is facing such challenges of racism that arises because of slavery. In the modern era, some countries (Iraq and Syria) still practising slavery as their regular and daily life practice, but rest of government fail to stop these things. Therefore, we can say that the world still needs to learn from the past and should take strict actions against those elements who promote slavery in the society. Slavery is one of the major problems for our social, economic, and demographic growth and it should be eliminated from the root level.
Bezemer, D., Bolt, J., & Lensink, R. (2014). Slavery, statehood, and economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa. World Development, 57(1), 148-163.
Bindas, K. (2010). Re-remembering a segregated past: Race in American memory. History & Memory, 22(1), 113-134.
Campbell, G., & Alpers, E. A. (2013). Introduction: Slavery, forced labour and resistance in Indian Ocean Africa and Asia. Slavery & Resistance In Africa, 16(8), 11-29.
Colleyn, J. P. (2015). The Diambourou: Slavery and Emancipation. Visual Anthropology, 28(4), 351-353.
Dal-Lago, E. (2015). American Slavery, Atlantic Slavery, and Beyond: The US" peculiar Institution" in International Perspective. 2nd ed. UK: Routledge.
Ditlmann, R. K., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Dovidio, J. F., & Naft, M. J. (2017). The implicit power motive in intergroup dialogues about the history of slavery. Journal of personality and social psychology, 112(1), 116.
Eltis, D., & Richardson, D. (2013). Routes to slavery: direction, ethnicity and mortality in the transatlantic slave trade. 5th ed. UK: Routledge.
Grandin, G. (2014). How Slavery Made the Modern World. Retrieved from: https://www.thenation.com/article/how-slavery-made-modern-world/
Jakobsson, N., & Kotsadam, A. (2013). The law and economics of international sex slavery: prostitution laws and trafficking for sexual exploitation. European journal of law and economics, 35(1), 87-107.
Joseph, E.P. (2013) How slavery Feeds Today’s Racism. Retrieved from: https://www.theroot.com/how-slavery-feeds-todays-racism-1790898665
Li, H. (2017). What slavery left to the modern society? Retrieved From: https://medium.com/applied-intersectionality/the-reality-about-slavery-69fc58cb8076
Nunn, N. & Wantchekon, L. (2011). The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa. American Economic Review, American Economic Association, 101(7), 3221-52.
O'Connell, H. A. (2012). The impact of slavery on racial inequality in poverty in the contemporary US south. Social Forces, 90(3), 713-734.
Parish, P. J. (2018). Slavery: history and historians. 2nd ed. UK: Routledge.
Stevenson, B. (2013). What the history of slavery can teach us about slavery today. Retrieved from: https://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/what-the-history-of-slavery-can-247972