History of slavery


Ships bringing slaves from Africa crowded in as many people as they could for the crossing over the Atlantic Ocean. These plans for the British slave ship Brookes, dreawn in 1788, show how 292 slaves could be made to fit lying crammed next to each other, side by side.

The history of slavery covers slave systems in historical perspective in which one human being is legally the property of another, can be bought or sold, is not allowed to escape and must work for the owner without any choice involved. As Drescher (2009) argues, “The most crucial and frequently utilized aspect of the condition is a communally recognized right by some individuals to possess, buy, sell, discipline, transport, liberate, or otherwise dispose of the bodies and behavior of other individuals.”A critical element is that children of a slave mother automatically become slaves.It does not include historical forced labor by prisoners, labor camps, or other forms of unfree labor in which laborers are not considered property.

Slavery can be traced back to the earliest records, such as the Code of Hammurabi (ca. 1760 BC), which refers to it as an established institution. Slavery is rare among hunter-gatherer populations as slavery depends on a system of social stratification. Slavery typically also requires a shortage of labor and a surplus of land to be viable.

Slavery is no longer legal anywhere in the world.Mauritania abolished it in law in 1981 and was the last country to do so – see Abolition of slavery timeline. However, in practice slavery continues to exist. For contemporary slavery see Slavery.