Throughout history, slavery has played a very prominent role in shaping the world’s societies and economies. Across three time periods in particular, slavery throughout the world has notable similarities and differences in areas such as the status of slavery, the way slavery influenced society, and the motivation for a civilization to practice slavery. These time periods are the Renaissance (1300-1650), the Industrial Revolution (1700-1900), and World Wars I and II (1914-1945). Renaissance
The time period known today as the Renaissance was, as its name means, a “rebirth” of Greco-Roman values. It was a reaction against the Dark Ages and stood in stark contrast to the medieval time period before it. The practice of slavery was no exception. Whereas slavery had fizzled out during the Dark Ages, it was instituted again during the Renaissance. Slavery in the Renaissance began in Spain, and for a while the Spanish played the primary part in the slave market. Soon, though, slavery spread to the other parts of Europe.
This was especially true with the case of the Italian city-states in which the Renaissance boomed. As the Renaissance grew in Italy and as the city-states expanded, slavery became more and more widespread until Italy became a main user of slaves (Hooker). In contrast to slavery in the later periods of the Industrial Revolution and the two World Wars which is explained later in this essay, slavery in the Renaissance was not solely based on race, but mostly religion (at least in Europe; another type of slavery was practiced in America during the Renaissance, as explained later).
Europe and Africa at that time was divided between Christians and Muslims, and so slavery in nations dominated by either religion was based on captured people from the other religion. In other words, in the Renaissance, Christians mostly enslaved Muslims and Muslims mostly enslaved Christians. In the case of the Italian Renaissance, Muslims slaves came from “Spain, North Africa, Crete, the Balkans, and the Ottoman Empire” (Hooker). The vast majority of slaves at the beginning of the Renaissance were white
(Hooker). But as the Renaissance progressed, black slaves began to be used more and more widely. In the beginning of the Renaissance, these African slaves were acquired through Arabs in North Africa, who also held them as slaves. When the Portuguese started exploring the African coast, they participated in a black slave market, shipping slaves to the Americas and back to Europe (Guild). El Mina was the first slave trading post set up by the Portuguese on the West Coast (“Gold Coast”) of Africa (Guild).
Thanks to enslaved Africans, the Portuguese were especially successful in their plantations in the islands off the west coast of Africa known as the Cape Verde, where they transported many of the Africans they enslaved to work in plantations there (Gascoigne). While most slaves in the Industrial Revolution did hard labor in fields, most slaves in the Renaissance were domestic slaves. This means that they did work in the home, doing duties for their masters around the house. Rich people in the cities almost always had one or more slaves.
Instead of the brutal, inhumane treatment of slaves common in the Industrial Revolution, slave-owners during the Renaissance commonly integrated their slaves into the family. In both the Industrial Revolution and the Renaissance, masters claimed all rights for their slaves; they did with them what they willed. Therefore, there arises the similarity between all three time periods in that commonly the slaves were used as sex slaves, although sex slaves in the World Wars were used mostly just for sex, not for hard labor.
When masters in the Renaissance had an illegitimate child with a slave, the child was not a slave but was free (Hooker). However, when a child was born to a slave and its master in the Industrial Revolution, the child became a slave like its mother (“Master-Slave…). While most slaves were domestic in the Renaissance, another form of slavery was surfacing, slaves used for cheap labor in plantations. In the Renaissance, slaves were starting to be used in plantations, mostly in America, but also in plantations in Italy and off the coast of Africa (Gascoigne).
So, in both the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, at least some slaves were used for hard labor. The Portuguese were the first to put slaves to work in plantations, and slaves soon came to be used on plantations in the Americas by nations such as Spain, Holland, France, England, and the Netherlands. The first slaves they enslaved in these colonies were the native peoples, but soon, the native population began to dwindle. Since Portugal had been exploring the coast of Africa and since Africa had a booming population of people, Africans became the people they predominantly enslaved (Guild).
Thus, racial slavery was started. Blacks came to be viewed as lower than human, and this view spread to all the nations which came to have plantations in America. Millions of blacks were imported to plantations for sugar, spices, tobacco, coffee, etc. during the span of the Renaissance (Hornsby). Industrial Revolution Slavery went through many changes during the course of the Industrial Revolution. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, slavery on plantations that had developed in the Renaissance continued to grow in the Americas.
With the success of the plantations in America, what is known as the triangular trade began to form, and this trade majorly affected the world’s economies and prosperity. This system of trade is known as the triangular trade because the directions of travel for the trade were in the shape of a triangle—from Europe to Africa to the Americas and back to Europe. Items such as weapons, liquor, jewelry, and products made from cotton were taken to Africa from Europe and traded for slaves. These were loaded on ships and taken to the Americas. Conditions in the ships were horrible.
Thousands of slaves were chained in very tight spaces in the ships. Disease permeated the hold where slaves were kept. Slaves laid in their own excrement and urine, and were fed barely anything. Many slaves died or committed suicide—an average of 16% of slaves. When the horrible trip was over, the remaining slaves were auctioned and sold in slave markets to plantation owners in the Americas. The products made in the plantations, such as tobacco, coffee, sugar, spices, and molasses which could be made into rum were then shipped to Europe, completing the trade system.
The British were the primary traders in this system, but other nations participated (Gascoigne). Slavery greatly affected the Industrial Revolution. It made it possible to create and grow products in a shorter period of time and for less money. All the master had to do was to provide food, which he have very little of, so slaves provided very cheap labor. In the case of America, slaves operated the new inventions such as the cotton gin to make cotton products easier. This greatly affected the economy of America. The prosperity in the South boomed as agriculture continued to see success.
This cotton industry and therefore the textile industrial majorly drove the Industrial Revolution in America. It became the primary export and cash crop. Hundreds of thousands of slaves were imported until 1808, when the American slave trade was banned. Still, hundreds of thousands of slaves were moved across America to the South and West to work on cotton plantations. These plantations and slavery in general brought in a huge profit for the American people. A similarity between slavery in the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution can be seen here—both used slavery as a catalyst for economies (“Africans..
”). But a difference is that most slaves in the Renaissance were domestic slaves in homes and were considered part of the family (Hooker). However, most slaves in the Industrial Revolution were plantation slaves and were considered less than human and were subjected to incredibly harsh treatment by their masters. However, near the Industrial Revolution, there was more of an awareness of the brutalities of slavery and more of a movement to stop it than the Renaissance. The final time period that will be discussed in this essay is the World Wars from 1914 to 1945. World Wars
Forms of slavery used during World Wars I and II from 1914 to 1945 were very different from slavery before it and slavery after it. The wars during this period of history had a huge impact on all aspects of society, and so the status of slavery and the motivation for slavery was largely based on the huge wars taking place. During World War I and the time after it before World War II, outright slave traffic continued to be curbed in the areas of the world still practicing slavery. The slave trade still continued underground between countries in eastern Africa, especially Ethiopia, and the Middle East, especially Arabia.
Throughout this period before World War II, there were outrages about revealed underground slave trades with enslaved Africans in Liberia and the Congo, and enslaved Native Americans in northern Peru (“Slavery…”). Joseph Stalin was the dictator of the Soviet Union from 1927 to 1953. During his regime, millions of people were forced to work in labor camps. This was in accordance with the USSR’s Labor Code, which stated that all citizens must labor for the government. Prisoners, enemies of the state, and other convicts were sent to do hard manual labor in Siberia during this time.
Citizens were accused of being enemies of the government and sent to work without a trial and without much grounds at all. Like in the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution, Stalin used his massive free labor force to build up the Soviet Union’s economy and to industrialize the nation. Labor projects included building roads and railroads, building houses and power plants, mining, cutting trees, working in fields, etc. The workers were given nothing but food. One third of all the workers died from the poor environment in which they worked and from starvation and the cold. They were brutally treated on unjust bases.
Therefore, this “corrective labor,” as it was called, is really slavery at its core. World War II was the instigation of several other types of slavery, also, such as POW slavery, Holocaust slavery, and sexual slavery. Nazi Germany captured enemy civilians and soldiers and brutally enslaved them to fill the gaps in the workforce. Much of the weaponry made by the Germans during World War II was made by slaves. One manufacturing company alone – Krupp—held 100,000 slaves by the end of the war. Many of these slaves died from exhaustion, starvation, and lack of basic necessities.
They were kept in stables like livestock. Those that didn’t die were forced to work in German factories and farms. In 1944, Germany held 9. 5 million slaves—7 million civilians and 2. 5 million captured soldiers. Russian women that the Germans captured were held as domestic slaves, and Russian adolescents that the Germans captured were apprenticed to German businessmen. Not only were the Germans notorious for their brutal system of slavery for prisoners of war, but even worse, they enslaved innocent Jews and other “undesirable” people during the Holocaust.
As a method of exterminating them, these people were sent to labor camps where they were treated even worse than the prisoners of war. Children from 6-years-old up were forced to work in these camps. Slaves mined, built weapons, sewed, etc. Slaves there were driven to work too hard in tight spaces with the poorest of living conditions. They had poor and meager food rations and a shortage of shelter and clothing. Loads of people died from diseases such as tuberculosis, from being overworked, from the cold, and from starvation.
Their corpses were systematically burned in huge crematoriums (Sylvester – everything above). The fact that there were scandals about slavery and labor camps during the time period of the World Wars indicates a similarity and difference between this time period and the Renaissance/ Industrial Revolution. A similarity is that all three time periods had some forms of slavery to enhance nations’ economies and extract resources. But a difference is that slavery in the World Wars was looked down upon and was underground, whereas it was not in the Renaissance.
But there lies a similarity between the World Wars and the Industrial Revolution, in that in both, measures were enacted to end slavery and the slave trade. However, World War II had labor camps for prisoners of war and specific races, which had never been done before. It also had sexual slavery, which though it had been practiced before, never to the extent it was carried out in World War II. Some captured slaves in the World Wars were used as domestic slaves, as they were in the Renaissance. But in the World Wars, there was not the worldwide slave trade there was in the Renaissance and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
Part 222 Introduction The 18th century English poet William Cowper’s poem, “Pity for Poor Africans,” accurately portrays the world’s mindset throughout history about slavery. A line from that poem reads, “I pity them [slaves] greatly, but I must be mum, for how could we do without sugar and rum? ” This sums up much of the world’s motivation for millennia for slavery. Throughout history, slavery has been a way to easily derive resources and produce goods. It has played a very prominent role in shaping the world’s societies and economies.
Though it may have struck a chord with peoples’ consciences, the world did not know how else to get luxuries and how to live without them, and so the world allowed this horrific practice to go on. This essay details more of how slavery was used as an economic stimulus, how the world finally took action against it, and what forms of it still were used after this action took place. Across three time periods in particular, slavery throughout the world has notable similarities and differences in areas such as the status of slavery, the way slavery influenced society, and the motivation for a civilization to practice slavery.
These time periods are the Renaissance (1300-1650), the Industrial Revolution (1700-1900), and World Wars I and II (1914-1945). Conclusion As one can clearly see, slavery has been a major factor in affecting and molding the world’s economies and societies throughout all of history. It has gone through major changes, affecting the world as a whole, especially in three time periods, namely, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and World Wars I and II. Throughout all three and under many names, it was used as cheap labor to easily produce goods and advance civilizations’ economies.
This slavery did, and it played a massive role in getting the world to where it is today. Without slavery, America might not have been industrialized or industrialized as quickly. Without slavery, we would not have the manufactured goods we have today. However, I am by no means condoning slavery; if slavery had not been practiced, millions of innocent, beautiful people would have lived their lives in freedom and would not have been torn away from their homeland, families, and livelihood to go labor without profit for people who abused and beat them.
The Civil War would have been largely prevented if it weren’t for slavery. Though slavery was mostly domestic in the Renaissance, this does not make it any better. Also, the plantation slave emerged in that time period, and the triangular trade between Europe, Africa, and the Americas continued well into the Industrial Revolution. Men achieved luxury through the pain and misery of others. Thankfully, mankind realized, though later than it should have been, how deplorable this system was. Finally, they put an end to it through abolitionist movements that spread throughout the world at the end of the Industrial Revolution.
Yet, slavery continued in several other forms into the 20th century. Throughout the time period of the World Wars, labor camps emerged. Though these were seen as punishment for criminals and war prisoners, they were slavery at root, used to industrialize and make transportation routes, weaponry, etc. These labor camps were even used against innocent Jews and other “undesirables” during the Holocaust. Unbeknownst to the world for a time, even outright and brutal slavery was still used as exemplified by King Leopold of Belgium.
Sexual slavery is another often overlooked form of slavery that had been carried out through past time periods like the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution but that was executed en masse by the Japanese during World War II. Still today, the pernicious act of slavery continues to be practiced, though concealed to the world, in underdeveloped countries of the world. Let us hope that mankind’s conscience continues to overshadow its greed and that slavery continues to be fought until it is completely wiped out the whole world over.