In one form or another, slavery existed in all parts of the globe. Not a single race could avoid the existence of this form of social development. It is revealed in the dependence of one person on another. These relations are possible at any time and in any country. Current paper discusses the right to use people as property – to buy, to sell or to exchange them in different parts of the planet and in different epochs. It also determines the influence of enslavement on the development of the society.
Slavery in the Antique World
The Antique countries, as well as the Eastern ones, are traditionally called slave-owning. However, the types of slavery in these countries were significantly different. In the Ancient East, there existed patriarchal slavery (from “patriarch” – head of a family). It was a comparatively moderate type of slavery, which appeared during the first years of development of the ancient countries. In the Eastern countries, slaves were not the main producers of material goods. This function was usually performed by different categories of farm-workers, which to some extent were dependent on the country and possessed the major part of land resources.
Slavery reached its highest point of development in the Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, which existed longer than the Eastern states. In these countries, slavery obtained the highest classic form of development. The formation of enslavement in the ancient countries occurred as the result of the intensive decay of the tribal society, and almost complete disruption of the primitive communities.
The formation of slave-owning countries in the ancient world was related to large-scale wars, which caused not only spoliation of material goods on the captured territories but also a flow of captives, who were usually turned into slaves.
During the earliest period of the antique countries’ development, there also existed patriarchal slavery, but with the development of production and monetary relations, it was displaced by the so-called classic slavery. It was characterized by a high degree of exploitation of slaves with an aim of getting maximal benefit from their work. As opposed to the patriarchal slaves, who had some personal rights, classic slaves were considered to be alive instruments. In the antique society, production was based on the work of enslaved people.
Slavery in the Ancient Greece
In the XI-IX centuries B.C., the Greek economy was dominated by a natural type of husbandry. Handicraft was not separated from agriculture. The main crops were cereals, grapes, and olives. Just like before, there were created the irrigation systems, and the soil was manured. There took place an improvement of tools, in particular, the appearance of a plow with a metallic shovel. Animal production also played an important role in the agriculture; cattle was considered to be one of the main types of wealth.
Weak development of agriculture and inability to provide the growing population with sufficient amount of food became one of the primary reasons for the Greek colonization. One of the most important functions of the colonies was to provide the metropolis with bread. The necessity to cultivate large amounts of products facilitated a need for slave labor and a wide spread of Greek colonization in the VIII-VI centuries B.C.
According to Phillips (2013), this period faced the formation of classic slavery. This process was connected with the development of tradable production and the increase in the number of slaves in the colonies. The cheap labor allowed to get a high income and was widely used in the main branches of production. The main centers of slave-trade were Delos, Chios, and Athens. Even the representatives of Demos could buy slaves, who became the main production force in the Ancient Greece.
In V century B.C., the labor of enslaved people was used in all sectors of production. They became the main production power and lost the rest of their rights. In the most developed Greek region Attica, slaves compose one-third of the population.
Nowadays, the IV century B.C. is considered to be the period of crisis of the classic Greek polis. This process was the direct consequence of the Greek economic development. One of the manifestations of the crisis of the polis structure were first of all the changes in the territorial relations. The land was no longer considered the main resource, but only a source of income. Together with the polis crisis, there took place abrupt changes in the field of enslavement. Slavery could not solve the problem of reproduction of the working power. With the existence of antagonism between the slave and the producer, the technical progress became impossible. The primitive means of production limited a possibility of production growth. The antique form of property was disrupted as an individual property started dominating over the polis property. The labor of free people was displaced by the cheap labor of slaves. As the physical work turned into an opprobrious activity, the salve-owning way of production became a reactional one that inhibited the development of new ways of production.
Slavery in the Ancient Rome
The Ancient Rome was founded in 754-753 B.C. as a small settlement, located in the northern part of the Apennine peninsula on the river of Tiber. At first, the Roman population lived as a primitive society. Its members were engaged only in agriculture as the climate of the Apennine peninsula was favorable for that. With time the society decayed, and there appeared a slave-owning state of the Roman aristocratic republic, which as a result of a chain of wars, took three neighboring regions under control.
Phillips (1985) claims that the VIII-VI centuries B.C. may be characterized by a decay of the tribal society. Family relations were replaced by territorial ones. Inside the tribe, there could be noticed a property division. A big patriarchal family, which also included slaves, became the main legal and economic unit. The Roman society was divided into the Patricians and the Plebeians.
The Patricians in the VIII-VI were all Romans – representatives of the Roman population, who had their representatives in the senate and the patrez. In the process of disruption of the tribal society, only the members of wealthy and noble families could be called the Patricians opposing themselves to the other representatives of the Roman nation. The head of a family, paterfamilias, had the unlimited power over the members (up to the right to execute or sell someone as a slave).
Another group in the Ancient Rome was the Plebeians, who were the migrants from other regions, not the members of the Roman society. They were considered to be legally free, but did not have civil rights. They had small parts of land and were engaged in trade and handicraft. The process of exfoliation took place among the Plebeians, but it was inhibited by their struggle for equality with the Patricians to have a right to possess bigger territories. It was one of the major reasons for the struggle between the Patricians and the Plebeians, which took place in the VI century B.C.
The position of a slave in the Ancient Rome was more severe than in the Ancient Greece. Numerous wars provided the Roman slave-owners with a cheap slave power. The slave-owners thought that the best way to keep their slaves in the submission was severe treatment. The wars led to important changes in the Roman economy. The rivalry of cheap grain brought from the Northern Africa caused the transformation of Roman economy to a more intensive type of economy. The peasant economy could not cope with this process. The victory of the slave-owning society was inevitable.
The transformation of Rome into a large slave-owning state was followed by the aggravation of social contradictions. To cope with the rebellions of slaves, there was established military dictatorship. At the beginning of Anno Domini, the Roman Republic turned into an Empire with its own army.
The III-V centuries A.D. refer to the period of crisis of the late Roman Empire, caused by the crisis of slave-owning productive relations. The main characteristic features of the period were the separatism of the provinces, invasion of barbarians, rebellions of slaves and military overturns.
With the growth in the number of slaves, the absence of motivation to work became an inhibitor for the development of the production. The struggle between the slaves and the slave-owners was gradually aggravating. The slavish power became economically inefficient, but in the disrupted slave-owning society there did not exist any other source of the productive force. The progressive force of colonates could not be widely used with the presence of slavery. The toil of free people could neither be used for this purpose. The development of enslavement ruined the peasantry in the Roman Empire and caused the appearance of lumpen. In that period, up to 200,000 people received free bread on a regular basis. In their opinion, the physical work could be only performed by slaves and did not fit a free person. Thus, neither slaves nor colonists and free peasants wanted to work, and the society was deadlocked.
Slavery in the Medieval Period
Phillips (2013) states that together with the feudal slavery in the Middle Ages there also existed a direct slavery of patriarchal type. In early Medieval times, in the countries that were located on the territory of the former Roman Empire, especially in the country of Visigoths in Spain and Italy, slavery played an important role in the economic sphere. However, this role was not the major one. The majority of slaves was engaged in agriculture. They paid a chief rent to the slave-owner, and with time unified with the peasantry.
By the beginning of the XIII century, in the majority of countries of the Western Europe, slavery had almost disappeared. However, in the Mediterranean cities the slave trade continued up to the XVI century. The slaves there were sold from Turkey to the Northern Africa. In Byzantium, the process of disruption of the slaveholding relations was carried out more slowly than in the Western Europe. In the XI-X centuries, slavery was still of considerable economic importance there. However, by the end of the XI-XII centuries the process of unification of slaves with the local peasantry had almost been complete.
According to Sedlar (1994), on German and Slavonic territories, slavery belonged to the patriarchal type. Gradually, the slaves unified with the local peasantry. However, the position of the peasantry in the society did no significantly differ from the position of slaves. In the ancient Caucasian states, slavery existed up to the IV-VI centuries. Its obsolete forms were kept up till the Medieval Ages.
Campbell, Miers, and Miller (2007) state that in the biggest oriental countries, such as China and India, slavery in its patriarchal form existed untill the development of capitalistic society in these states, and sometimes coexisted with it. The main source of slavery in the Medieval period was the debt slavery. In China, there existed a widespread practice to sell family members as slaves. Moreover, one of the sources of slavery in China was transformation of criminals or members of their families into slaves.
According to Lewis and Nsel (2006), slavery widely expanded in the Muslim countries of the Far and the Middle East. As Islam prohibited turning the Muslims into slaves, the only source of slavery was to capture them during wars with Giaours or to buy them at the European, Asian and African markets. The slaves in the Muslim countries were engaged in mining works, served as military servants, at husbandry or as personal servants (including harems).
Slavery in the United States
The first slaves were brought to the British Virginia by British colonizers in 1619 to produce tobacco. According to Rodriguez (2007), in the XVII-XVIII centuries, slavery expanded all over the territory of the United States, and the black slaves played an important role in the development of the US economy. By 1860, out of 12 million population of the United States, 4 million had been enslaved. Out of 1,5 million of families 390,000 owned slaves.
The slavish power was widely used in the plantation industry. In the beginning of the XIX century, the national wealth of the United States was majorly based on the exploitation of slavish power. From XVI to XIX centuries, there were brought about 12 million of people from Africa to the American continent. 645,000 of them were brought to the territory of the United States.
During the American Revolution in 1775-1783, many colonizers started engaging the black slaves in the struggle against the British rule. This movement was particularly developed in the Northern states where the slavery did not play a key role. After the achievement of independencein the North, there started gradual liberation of slaves from the enslavement. Nonetheless, the US Constitution was amended with the existence of slavery in the United States, but the population of the new nation had a different opinion on the existence of millions of enslaved people. With time, there appeared a movement for liberation called abolitionism.
At the end of the 18th century, the extensive development of agriculture in the South of the United States had exhausted. The agricultural sector in the Southern states fell into decay. The plantations of tobacco were particularly smashed. Together with the crisis of agriculture, the slavery lost its role in the South.
Approximately at the same time, after the industrial revolution in the textile industry in Great Britain, there appeared a demand for the US cotton. However, picking cotton was not a profitable task at that time as its cleaning was performed manually.
In 1793, a young American teacher Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, a device that could effectively clean cotton. This tool became widely used in agriculture, and in several years the South directed the production to the cotton industry. This event caused the revival of slavery in the Southern states that lasted for several decades.
Slavery was not widely spread in the Northern states, although a number of people in the region won a fortune due to the slave trade and the investments in the southern plantations. From 1774 to 1804, all the Northern states abolished the slavery, but the enslavement at the South continued.
On the 18th of September 1850, the Congress adopted the fugitive slave law, which allowed the search and retention of slaves on the territory where slavery had been abolished. The law obliged the population to take an active part in the detection of slaves and used severe punishment both for the slaves and people, who helped them to escape. In all the Northern and Southern states, there were people authorized to retain slaves, and who had to be supported by the population. The detained slaves were imprisoned and with the armed guards were brought back to the slave-owner. To find a slave fugitive, it was enough for a white person to state that a black person is a slave who escaped.
The American slave-ownership appeared as a way of exploitation of the working power in the limits of capitalistic society, but with time it was turned into an autonomous social, economic and political structure based on the “political economy”. Gradually, the capitalistic systems of the North and the plantation slavery of the South became the two different social systems.
The slavery in the United States was abolished after the Civil War in 1861-1865 and the adoption of the 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States in December 1865. The last state that ratified this amendment was the Mississippi in 2013. This ratification put an end to slavery in the US, making it illegal and anticonstitutional.
From the historical point of view, the comparison of the industrial capitalism and the plantation slavery does not leave any doubt regarding the fact that the market of hired workers, free competition and other social relations such as economics, politics and culture were more progressive and incompatible with the system of enslavement.
Thus, it can be concluded that in general, the existence of slavery in any epoch had a negative impact on the development of society. It violated human rights, inhibited technical progress and economic growth, and caused the incorrect evaluation of physical work.