The Roots of Slavery
The term slave has its origins in the word slav.
The slavs, who inhabited a large part of Eastern Europe, were taken as slaves
by the Muslims of Spain during the ninth century AD.
Slavery can broadly be described as the ownership, buying and selling of human
beings for the purpose of forced and unpaid labour. It is an ancient practice,
mentioned in both the Bible and the Koran.
for those of your slaves which wish to buy their liberty, free them if you find
in them any promise and bestow on them a part of the riches which God has given
Koran, Chapter 24, Verse 32.
Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive
of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
Testament, Ephesians 6, Chapter 6, Verse 8.
the main religious texts of Judaism, Islam and Christianity all recognise slaves
as a separate class of people in society. Going back further in time the Mayans
and Aztecs kept slaves in the Americas, as did the Sumerians and Babylonians
in the Near East. The Egyptians employed huge numbers of slaves, including the
Jews, Europeans and Ethiopians.
The Greeks and Romans kept slaves as soldiers, servants, labourers and even
civil servants. The Romans captured slaves from what is now Britain, France
and Germany. Slave armies were kept by the Ottomans and Egyptians.
In Imperial Russia in the first half of the 19th century one third of the population
were serfs, who like slaves in the Americas, had the status of chattels
and could be bought and sold. They were finally freed in 1861 by Emperor
Alexander II. Four years later slavery was abolished in the southern states
of America following southern defeat in the American Civil War.
Africa there were a number of societies and kingdoms which kept slaves, before
there was any regular commercial contact with Europeans, including the Asanti,
the Kings of Bonny and Dahomey.
Find out more in African