Milton Meltzer Kirkus Reviews - Essay

Kirkus Reviews

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The second volume of Meltzer's study of slavery, Slavery II: From the Renaissance to Today,] encompasses slavery as it existed, and in some cases still exists, in Africa, Arabia, China and under the Nazis, and also [gives] a remarkably detailed picture of the everyday existence of slaves in the Americas. As always, Meltzer is a careful historian who looks for the documentable truth behind prevalent generalizations—he gives the lineage of his statistics, citing Curtin's revised estimates of the volume of the Atlantic slave trade and, on such controversial topics as the extent of resistance among American slaves, he presents the opposing views of prominent historians. (Meltzer himself concludes that there is a good deal of evidence of widespread rebellion, both passive and active, but shows that there is room to doubt the scope of some of the more famous conspiracies, such as the Vesey uprising.) The attention given to cultural and economic differentials—the higher frequency of manumission in Cuba and South America, the practice of hiring out and, in some cases, of "breeding" slaves, the difficulty of eradicating the institution in countries where starvation may be the only alternative—and the generous use of quotations from primary sources make the narrative both more interesting and more illuminating than the ambitious scope might indicate. First rate.

A review of "Slavery II: From the Renaissance to Today," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1972 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. 40, No. 12, June 15, 1972, p. 681.