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Economics of Slavery in the New World

Slavery: the word stands for everything that went wrong with the colonization of the Americas. African slaves arrived in the New World less than a decade after Christopher Columbus, but they were not the first slaves the European conquerors brought into the equation: Indio natives of the Caribbean islands the Spaniards "discovered" had already been enslaved - and brought back to the royal court of Castile to be paraded about as the prizes of exploration. Even white slaves made their appearance in the early years of colonization. Slavery: the Americas, North and South, were built upon a complex structure of economic, political and social relationships that included slavery as an integral part of its workings.

Slavery, of course, was not an innovation brought on by the discovery of the New World; the ancients had relied upon slave populations to build their civilizations and, following that tradition, the just-ended medieval European society had never excluded captured Saracens from the defilements of slavery (and vice versa). Though never popular in the northern countries of Europe, slavery had continued to maintain a foothold in the economic life of the Mediterranean principalities, particularly as galley slaves for the Spanish, Portuguese and Ottoman navies - and in the sugar plantations of Cyprus, Crete, Sicily and Palestine that had developed since the Crusades in response to a growing European demand. The basis of selection for such slavery was not race, as it came to be in the Americas, but religion; infidels captured in battle or from conquered lands populated the Muslim slave market; captured Muslim warriors were the Christian slaveholder's chattel. Sub-Saharan Africans were sprinkled among the slave population of both groups, but the dominate characteristic of the pre-New World era described a single-generational, Mediterranean-based slave profile. In keeping with the nature of their origins, slaves in this perio...

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Economics of Slavery in the New World. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:42, December 07, 2021, from