Inhuman Bondage Book Review

I just finished reading Pulitzer Prize winner David Brion Davis' Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New world and I am glad that I did. As a historical document about that "peculiar institution" in the United States, Davis writing and research are nothing less than spectacular.

Davis examines many facets of slavery including religion, tradition and capitalism. As the reader moves seamlessly through each chapter it becomes clear that the entire concept of slavery runs deeper than most people realize, including the highly educated. The writer covers centuries of slavery from the dawn of man up to the present-day problems of sexual slavery infecting the country.

Early slavery tended to use captured enemies as slaves. Slavery was practiced in ancient China and the slaves were made up up war captives. The Atlantic slave trade had some similarities, but became grossly different in its abuse of  human beings. Most of the Africans sold to white slavers were prisoners of African war or kidnappings by other black Africans specifically to sell to white slave-traders, which was a winning proposition for the African sellers thereby ridding themselves of an enemy forever and receiving compensation. Africa has always been an amalgamation of ununited nation.  This separateness allowed slave traders not to rob a nation of its people and asserts, but according to the author, it's most valuable possessions such as leaders, planners and the elite classes.

However. The Atlantic slave trade had Christian and Islamic finger prints all over and rarely for the better. Northern Africa slaves were frequently kidnapped or if they resisted were exterminated by Islamic as well as Christian raiders. However, it was the Curse of Ham that Christians used to cast African blacks into less than human status, even though it was not Ham's sin, but Shemeth's. Davis also refers to the Mark of Cain being used to strip African blacks of their humanity as well. Apparently, Islam also found this explanation to be useful.

Jesus never spoke a word about slavery, but his disciple Paul had strong opinions regarding slavery and according to Davis and had no compunction about telling others how to handle their slaves. Exodus records the Additionally, the writer points out how the God of the anient Hebrews commanded the Jews to bring their slaves with them out of Egypt as the Jews could not make slaves of their own people.

Nevertheless. Davis insists that the racialism of slavery provided religious justification for the buying and selling of African blacks and the beginning of chattel slavery. According to the author, it took nearly 300 year during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries before abolitionists began to surface saying that owning a slave was wrong if they are not converted to Christianity. That was the beginning in both England and the New Country.

After the American Revolution, slavery was the economic engine of The South as cotton was a worldwide cash crop and in demand. Many Southerners became rich by having the free labor of slaves, but, northern abolitionist were making it difficult to own slaves. In addition, successful slave uprisings in Haiti and other sites had slave owners under extreme pressure. From the beginning, Northern States and Southern States had major differences as the North became industrialized while the South was an agrarian society and used to owning slaves do back breaking labor.

In addtion, English abolishionists began skewering the fledgling United States as hypocritical because of its constitution that said all men were created equal, but had a portion of the country where only whites could count on that measure. The English insight was not lost on Northern or Southern Abolitionsts.

Davis explains that the Civil War was nearly an inevitability. The South's intractability on the issue of slavery sits at the core of the author's argument. That stubbornness combined with the Fugitive Slave Act, the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Missouri Compromise of 1850 lent a steady hand to starting the Civil War, the author explains.

If you are interested in learning the minutia of the slave trade, Inhuman Bondage is excellent research book written in a style for almost any reader. Reasons for many things that happen today in politics, general and social interactions are contained within this book's pages. I highly recommend it.

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Comment by Donald R Barbera on November 30, 2012 at 11:42pm

Glen, when I started reading it my attention was grabbed. It didn't immediately start with what we all think we know about American slavery. It was the information on slavery throughout history.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on November 30, 2012 at 11:28pm

Thanks Donald. I am reading The Slave Ship and will follow with this book on your recommendation.



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