Put aside everything you thought you knew about the history of slavery. This month we will investigate the many faces of slavery throughout history. Why? Because slavery in America was a short chapter, maybe even a scene, in a history that spans thousands of years. The library was no help to my research. There were 22 books on slavery. All of them were about slavery in America, so I bought my own books, tracked down some primary sources and searched the internet. This month, I plan to share some of what I’ve learned about the history of slavery. (See pic of my favorite book)
Slavery was an economic institution of civilization. Hunter-gatherers and primitive farmers who lived at a subsistence level had no use for slaves. A slave would have been another mouth to feed. That changed, however, where towns and cities evolved. Tradesmen and craftsmen within the cities needed to work at their business or craft to maximize their profit. They generally bought their food from farmers who produced food beyond what was necessary for their own needs. The more they produced, the greater their profit. The ruling classes as they evolved needed servants and indicators of their status.
These developments created an economic advantage for cheap labor. Whether working in shops doing less-skilled work or laboring on a farm, slavery became economically beneficial in all of the ancient civilizations. And slaves were easily acquired. War was common in the early civilizations. The fate of the losers was either death or slavery. Pirates sold their captives from raids as slaves. Convicted criminals or debtors unable to pay their debts could be sentenced to slavery. The poor sold their children or themselves into slavery to survive. With time, the slave population replenished itself. In general, the children of female slaves were born slaves. Tomorrow, we’ll check out the most ancient laws that governed slaves and slavery. RitaBay