History of Slavery Essay

History of Slavery Essay


Slavery is an institution which has existed since the beginning of human history. Ancient civilizations such as Sumer, Babylon, Greece, and Rome all used slave labor to power their economies. It was a commonplace practice in the ancient world to enslave defeated opponents and selling into slavery those who were unable to pay their debts. Greco-Roman paganism held slavery to be right, as did Christianity which replaced it in Europe (Patterson, 1977). Slavery was primarily abandoned within Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Europe transitioned from a centralized state to a decentralized collection of small kingdoms ruled by local strongmen. Slavery was replaced by feudalism, which involved a landowner renting a plot of land to a peasant in exchange for a portion of the crops grown on the property. Slavery would not return to Europe until the end of the 15th century and the beginning of colonialism. The indigenous populations of what would become North, Central, and South America were decimated by diseases which they had no natural immunity to after encountering Europeans. The results were demand for slaves which could withstand the conditions of the new world. As a result, European powers such as Spain, Portugal, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States used slave labor from Africa. The demand for labor in the colonies created the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, which lasted until the mid-19th century. Slavery is an institution which has existed since the beginning of human history; it was abolished through a combination of technological innovation making it obsolete, the resistance of the enslaved, the ideals of the Enlightenment, and religious objections to the practice. Even though the combined efforts helped to end slavery, its impacts are still evident in the contemporary world, especially in the instances where certain races and ethnic groups felt superior and entitled to particular rights and freedom than others.

The History of Slavery

The history of slavery goes back to the Roman Empire era but is more associated with the United States since it is the country where enslavement practices were rampant. The slave trade was of paramount importance to the United States since it helped to facilitate the cotton growing which by then it was an American “white gold.”  Slavery, a vital driver of the American economy and as such the farmers, felt rightfully entitled to continue with the trade (Jones 1956). It was during the widespread of slavery, especially in America, when the antislavery debate and struggle reached the climax. The fight against slavery was supported by many aspects in the society including the combination of religious objection to the trade, technological progress that made slave labor unnecessary, the resistance of the enslaved, and the liberal ideas of the Enlightenment which valued individual freedom.

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