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The history of slavery spans lots of cultures, nationalities, and religions spanning all the way from ancient times to today.
The earliest record of slavery is 1860 BC, where it is referred to it as an established institution and it was common among ancient times. Ottoman wars resulted in the taking of large numbers of Christian slaves and slavery became more common within lots of Europe during the dark ages. Denmark-Norway was the first European country to ban slave trade in 1802. At the beginning of the nineteenth century an estimated three-quarters of all people were trapped in bondage against their will in either slavery of serfdom, the status of many peasants under feudalism.
New Zealand played a massive part in slave labor and trade in the pacific, although it has been almost erased from our national consciousness. This involvement prompted mass protest meetings in major towns and cities. Even after America banned slavery many New Zealanders were involved in a pacific slave trade. In the 1860s and 1870s at least 32 New Zealand ships carried slaves from pacific islands to places in Fiji, Queensland, Samoa, and Tahiti. By the end of the 1860s at least 50 ships were working full time to supply the plantations in Queensland and Fiji with laborers. Around this time it was impossible to ignore slavery in the pacific and Kiwis took a schizophrenic attitude, both condemning it and denying the seriousness with the country’s involvement. For most settlers New Zealand was a blessed country because there was rich soil and a gentle climate, perfect for the buildings of a nation. It became a farm and jewel in the British Empire’s eye, a place where women and men of all upbringings could achieve complete independence and buy their own land. This haven started to go into an economic crisis and prices for sugar and cotton went up. Because of this, many growers started to employ ‘labor recruiters’, also known as ‘blackbirders’. These people unloaded cargoes of men, women and even children, offering them for sale. They used many tactics to get people on board their boats in order to sell them. These tactics included promising trade, putting them in chains, raiding islands and taking prisoners at gunpoint or promise to ferry islanders to some destination, employ them for a short while on good pay or take them to a missionary station. Of course, these were empty promises, as there was no good in store for these laborers. An island in the New Hebrides alone received more than 40 different visits from blackbirders and lost nearly 450 people from their population of 900. Sometimes people were paid to hunt down and deliver laborers, no matter what it took.
Blackbirders commonly claimed that their prisoners had agreed to labor for a certain amount of time on a plantation, sometimes producing contracts supporting these claims. In theory, after being delivered to a plantation, a blackbirded islander could expect to work for three to five years, six days a week before being handed a small sum of money and sent home. In reality, many laborers died of neglect or overwork before their time laboring was up. Those who lived long enough to end their contracts were placed on ships and often sent to the nearest convenient land, where they faced the prospects of being killed by the locals. Life was hard for labor, and there was no escape. Laborers who deserted their plantations were hunted down and beaten, sometimes either to death or the brink of death.
Economists reckon that slavery shut down the economic growth in the south of the United States of America. At least one made the argument that workers who were reluctant depleted soil faster, as the south was an agrarian society where tobacco, rice, sugar, cotton, wheat and hemp, the cannabis plant grown for fibre, secured the economy. These reluctant slaves also had little interest in learning, therefore had no interest in learning the newest farming techniques, slowing progress down. Other economists think that slavery made it hard for the south to establish trading networks with both other countries and north of the United States of America. Slavery also forced farmers to diversify their economic activities because the costs of owning a slave – food and shelter – were constant. If plantations specialized in one type of crop then they were more susceptible to sudden drops in income and consequently big losses if their crop didn’t do as well one year to the next. By diversifying their crops, they had a steadier revenue to match the costs of the slave.
Slave owners, because they had a big range of crops sometimes found it easier to grow something than go out and buy it, meaning that the income of the shops in the area felt the loss, affecting the economy of the region. As a result of this, the south found it hard to develop a manufacturing industry, instead depending on imports from the north. This means that economic growth was stifled, eventually leading to the demise of slavery. This demise came because the direct impact of using human beings as capital equipment represented a terrible economic cost and there were many economic contradictions to slavery. The downfall and eradication of slavery made as much economic sense as slavery itself.
Slavery gave African Americans a mindset that couldn’t change about how they should act and talk. Some slaves were humiliated and used as examples in front of other slaves and Africans, reinforcing the idea that they were worthless and deserved whatever came for them. Slave owners made slaves believe that everything white was good no matter what. Due to this many slaves had very little self-worth and thought that all things black were bad, including them, causing them to loathe themselves. This is an example of the brainwashing the slaves had to undergo, being told these sorts of things every day until they believed nothing else. This affected their minds differently depending on what they were being told. Most had bad effects, though not all. Slaves were degraded and stripped of all pride until they had nothing left. They were forced to fight each other, sometimes even to the point of death, just for the slave owners’ entertainment and joy. This act of cruelty was called Mandingo fighting and it caused the slaves great guilt when they had to kill or harshly beat another person.
A lot of African women were abused sexually most days, and just used and thrown away by their owners. Being used like this weakened the minds of slaves and made them feel worthless and like they deserved what was happening. They believed everything they were told because they knew no better, especially the many children born into this life of slavery and debt over nothing. There was a stereotype that black people’s favorite food was fried chicken, as fried chicken at that time was very cheap so slaves were fed it almost every day.
Nowadays, people know that stereotypes like these are false and only came around because owners didn’t buy anything more expensive. In our modern world, although you may not believe it, there is still slavery. It has changed forms over the years but it has never disappeared. These days it is in the forms of slavery by descent, children taking up the work of their parents, bonded labor or debt bondage, where a person or multiple people are in debt so do work to pay it off, forced migrant labor, immigrants being forced to pay for their stay, sex slavery, people – mainly women – being forced to become prostitutes, have sex and be abused in the process, early or forced marriage, having their choice and freedom away at a young age, child labor, having all freedom taken away at a young age to work in harsh conditions, the fishing industry, being forced to take part in catching fish and not being paid much, and human trafficking, trading human for human to take part in all of the other types of slavery. Men are usually forced into the industries of agriculture or construction and children are forced into sweatshops. Many young women are forced to marry older men against their will.
There are an estimated 40.3 million people in slavery. Within that, 10 million are children, 14.9 million are forced into labor, 15.4 million are forced to marry against their will and 4.8 million are exploited sexually. Today slavery is less about people literally owning others, instead it is more about being exploited and completely controlled by other people. People in slavery may be forced to work using threats, either physical or mental, owned or controlled through abuse or threats of abuse, physically restrained or have restrictions on movement or dehumanized by being either bought or sold. Slaves are more likely than others to be living in poverty, where the law is weaker or a society where early marriage is acceptable. They are more likely to be discriminated against as well. While this is true, not all slaves live in poverty or places where law is weaker or allows slavery. You can find slaves in many different countries, including developed countries or areas like Britain.
Fair trade companies are trying hard to eradicate slavery and they have managed to make it illegal in many parts of the world. This does not mean that slavery will not continue to threaten the lives of many, it might just make it slightly easier to live. From 2016 a legislation was introduced that required bigger companies to report their policies and actions in order to get rid of slavery in as many big businesses and supply chains as possible.
There must have been reasons that made sense for slavery, such as for owner’s own personal gain, so they didn’t have to work as hard, or purely for their entertainment, but research has proven these reasons futile. Now the world must convince those last few places that slavery is not worth it and we will be able to live in a slave free world.
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