How did slavery affect world history?no

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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What I always found interesting as an historian was the 'perception' of slavery throughout human civilization. Slavery has existed as far back as the inception of writing. The ancient civilizations of Babylon, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome all accepted slavery as a part of their society. Slavery in the ancient world promoted economic stability, increased wealth among the slaveholders, and was revered as an integal part of the society. Slavery was not viewed in the same way as it was during the ancient world. While it is true that ancient slaves were 'owned' by families, and were beaten,punished, or worse. It wasn't until the American brand of slavery that the institution of slavery was viewed in a different light. It could be argued that up until the American experience most folks didn't think much of the institution, however a post Enlightenment mentality in the United States played a significant role in the moral aspects of the institution, even among slaveholders.

I believe that slavery (which unfortunately still exists in certain places) due to the American experience has had a 'global effect' upon most legitimate nations. It is up to the free nations of the world to stand up and declare the injustice of the institution slavery, putting as much non-violent pressure on them as possible. (military action should always be a last resort) However, standing by and having no opinion can be considered just as bad. I only hope those that still experience bondage will one day be freed of the chains that bind them.

 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Exploitation has, as previously been mentioned, gone on since the early pages of the Bible.  Most disturbing, nowadays we have a slavery of the mind and spirit that has insidiously stolen from people who unwittingly consider themselves free.  The media is certainly a great instrument of this exploitation as so many "open-mouthed" consumers injest whatever is fed them through sound-bytes and slanted "news."  Like air-brushed photos, reality is being altered for people so that they will be deceived into thinking they are correctly informed and fall in line with the "conventional wisdom."

As in Huxley's "Brave New World," this exploitation of the mind may, as did physical slavery, greatly affect the course of history.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Don't forget the indentured servants who traveled from Europe to America with their travels fees covered by the person for who they agreed to work for a period of seven years once they reached the new land.  This is a form of slavery, even though it was agreed upon by both parties.  More than once, the time period was lengthened and the servant was tricked into staying and working past the original deadline. Without these agreements, these people would never have been able to afford passage.

Slavery has had a profound effect on world history as well as personal histories. I'm thinking of the Harriet Tubmans and the Frederick Douglasses and countless others we wouldn't have in history had they not suffered through slavery first (or perhaps some other horrific event).  Histories of entire people have been effected as well...the Jews in the Bible have been persecuted and enslaved more times than one can count, yet this is all part of the plan to make people stronger and to endure what you thought you could not.  Of course, I haven't had my coffee yet, so I could just be babbling.  Ha!

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alohaspirit | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Slavery has allowed empires to be built with free labor, trade to increase between the New World and Old World, civil wars to tear countries apart, and today create a underground smuggling of people into a new black market business.  Slavery is as old as the times of the bible, and seems to be innately part of the human society.  People recently, and I mean recently, within the last 150 years, are realizing that slavery is unjust and should not be apart of human civilizations.  But if you look at the foundation of many powerful civilizations they were built by slaves.  If you were to erase slavery from human history, many of those civilizations would not have existed, and as we know it our concept of world history would be completely different.  Who knows, maybe societies in the Pacific or Amazon would rise up and become the super powers of the world.  It is crazy to imagine how history would be different without the use of slaves.  That goes to show you that slavery was and is a vital part, a horrible part, of human history.

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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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From biblical history to American history and all points in between, slavery has affected our world's timeline in numerous ways.

The pyramids of Egypt would not have been constructed without slave labor, for example. Slaves, treated as property, were often traded and ceded between those in power throughout different historical eras.

In our own American history, slavery was one of the root causes of one of our bloodiest wars -- the Civil War. While some historians may argue this point, and assert that other issues were the main root cause (states' rights, etc.), slavery had much to do with the conflict between Union and Confederacy.

Other countries around the world have used (and some continue to use) slave labor as a means to an economic end. In our modern era, slavery is considered a violation of basic human rights, but this perception, as demonstrated, has not always been prevalent.

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hi1954 | Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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That was a good answer, although slavery in the American South was not really very cost effective.  The cost of slavery created an economic strain that crippled industrial development in the South, and left most plantations on the verge of bankruptcy year after year.  Slaves were far more expensive than free laborers, there was simply not enough labor available without slavery to run the vast tobacco and cotton plantations.

There were, as pointed out, many slaves who were important in history, some as teachers and tutors of the famous, and some as individuals who won their freedom through personal actions.  But the real problem of slavery throughout history has been the dehumanizing effect it has had on both slaves and masters.

Slavery, as far as we know, was invented in ancient Mesopotamia.  We know it existed as part and parcel of the ancient wars of conquest.  By the modern anti-slavery movement in Britain (which spread to America) vast populations had been destroyed in the New World under Spanish domination, and the world slave trade was centered on Africa.  The central and eastern portions of the continent were almost denuded of people by the late 19th century, by black tribal warfare and slave raids by Arabs, mostly after the American Civil War.  Very few slaves had been brought to America, the vast majority taken to Arab countries or India.

Slavery, unfortunately, is still with us today.  More people live in slavery today than in all of past history, an estimated 27 million people, the majority still in Arabic countries or India according to modern anti-slave organizations.  Slavery exists in South America also.  In Asia, Europe, etc. people are forced into the sex trade as slaves.  The British government in the 19th century was right to attempt to abolish these practices, but the world has become complacent in our belief that the job was finished long ago.

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rystrttn | eNotes Newbie

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People are still today affected by slavery, the term slave wages and 'work' in general is this form of slavery. The world was, from the very beginning built on war and slaves. The decendants are still today the most powerfully rich and have not been tried for past injustices.

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gatetochrist | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

What I always found interesting as an historian was the 'perception' of slavery throughout human civilization. Slavery has existed as far back as the inception of writing. The ancient civilizations of Babylon, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome all accepted slavery as a part of their society. Slavery in the ancient world promoted economic stability, increased wealth among the slaveholders, and was revered as an integal part of the society. Slavery was not viewed in the same way as it was during the ancient world. While it is true that ancient slaves were 'owned' by families, and were beaten,punished, or worse. It wasn't until the American brand of slavery that the institution of slavery was viewed in a different light. It could be argued that up until the American experience most folks didn't think much of the institution, however a post Enlightenment mentality in the United States played a significant role in the moral aspects of the institution, even among slaveholders.

I believe that slavery (which unfortunately still exists in certain places) due to the American experience has had a 'global effect' upon most legitimate nations. It is up to the free nations of the world to stand up and declare the injustice of the institution slavery, putting as much non-violent pressure on them as possible. (military action should always be a last resort) However, standing by and having no opinion can be considered just as bad. I only hope those that still experience bondage will one day be freed of the chains that bind them.

 


That's a very keen point you've touched there. Slavery used to be a way for people to "pay off their debt" in much of the ancient world. In fact, such was also the nature of African slaves (in the beginning). After working off their debt or work for capture, slaves were allowed to "free" themselves. However, with the trans-atlantic trade system and the changes in the slave system by Europeans, the very nature of slavery transformed into something more sinister and well, RACIAL. This guilt, as you have said, is manifested in post-Enlightenment mentality of the moral aspect of the institution.
Furthermore, this moral hazard became much more apparent because slavery was a practice that ruled against the Christianity (something about how all men are equal before God). But to justify their trade, the slave traders (Dutch if I recall correctly) developed the idea of racism: that, black man is not human, but sub-human, and therefore NOT equal.

I must, however, argue that your last argument is much too idealistic. The fundamental reason why slave trade does not cease is because the human body is the last line of credit. One can "sell", in essence, his or her body when all else fails. And desperate moments call for desperate measures. Unless we can solve world hunger, poverty, disease, and the many like problems of inequality, there will always be slavery. 

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gatetochrist | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

That was a good answer, although slavery in the American South was not really very cost effective.  The cost of slavery created an economic strain that crippled industrial development in the South, and left most plantations on the verge of bankruptcy year after year.  Slaves were far more expensive than free laborers, there was simply not enough labor available without slavery to run the vast tobacco and cotton plantations.

There were, as pointed out, many slaves who were important in history, some as teachers and tutors of the famous, and some as individuals who won their freedom through personal actions.  But the real problem of slavery throughout history has been the dehumanizing effect it has had on both slaves and masters.

Slavery, as far as we know, was invented in ancient Mesopotamia.  We know it existed as part and parcel of the ancient wars of conquest.  By the modern anti-slavery movement in Britain (which spread to America) vast populations had been destroyed in the New World under Spanish domination, and the world slave trade was centered on Africa.  The central and eastern portions of the continent were almost denuded of people by the late 19th century, by black tribal warfare and slave raids by Arabs, mostly after the American Civil War.  Very few slaves had been brought to America, the vast majority taken to Arab countries or India.

Slavery, unfortunately, is still with us today.  More people live in slavery today than in all of past history, an estimated 27 million people, the majority still in Arabic countries or India according to modern anti-slave organizations.  Slavery exists in South America also.  In Asia, Europe, etc. people are forced into the sex trade as slaves.  The British government in the 19th century was right to attempt to abolish these practices, but the world has become complacent in our belief that the job was finished long ago.



That is true. Slavery in south america became less and less profitable, much the way North American slavery became less profitable. However, with the invention of the cotton gin and spinning jenny, it became profitable in North America again.

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Slavery greatly affected the history of the world mainly through economics--from buying and selling slaves to the work that they produced.

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leinadmik | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

dear riq,

 

As you may know, slavery was common throughout the world, especially in ancient times. Slaves were often the quintessential spoils of war with a myriad of utilities including, but not limited to: cheap-laborers, soldiers, and even teachers.

Plantation agriculture in South America, for example, wouldn’t have been possible without cost-effective slave labor. Cultivating labor-intensive cash crops with your average wage workers would have run the farm out of business; labor was simply too expensive. Slavery, therefore, permitted the world’s demand for such luxury products, such as tobacco or sugar, to be met by slave-driven supply. Even in ancient times, Latifundias, or huge farms of the Roman Empire, were only made possible by the Mediterranean slave trade and the abundance of slaves Rome acquired after its war with Carthage.

In the Middle East, slaves were often used as soldiers. This kind of use of slaves had significant backlash later on in the Middle East’s history when slave soldiers revolted and brought empires to its knees. The slave-soldier armies even formed their own “countries”– the Mamluks being a prime example. This particular group of slave-soldiers is noteworthy as historians later make them out as the “shield” that finally defeated the Mongol Horde, preventing them from spreading further into Africa.

Some slaves even became teachers of people like Alexander the Great! (The term slave is used rather loosely here.) Nonetheless, the influence that certain slaves – Aristotle in the above case – exercised had tremendous influence on World History. Great and influential leaders made their choices based upon the teachings of their slave mentors.

 

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