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The history of slavery covers many different forms of human exploitation across many cultures throughout history. Slavery, generally defined, refers to a situation where one human being is considered to be the property of another, and is therefore obligated to perform tasks for their owner without any choice involved. It can be traced back to the earliest records, such as the Code of Hammurabi (ca. 1760 BC), which refers to it as an established institution. Slavery is rare among hunter-gatherer populations as slavery depends on a system of social stratification. Slavery also requires economic surpluses and a high population density to be viable.

The ancient Mediterranean civilizations

Slavery in ancient cultures was known to occur in civilizations as old as Sumer, and it was found in every civilization, including Ancient Egypt, the Akkadian Empiremarker, Assyria, Ancient Greece, Rome and parts of its empire. Such institutions were a mixture of debt-slavery, punishment for crime, the enslavement of prisoners of war, child abandonment, and the birth of slave children to slaves. In the Roman Empire, probably over 25% of the empire's population, and 30 to 40% of the population of Italy was enslaved.Records of slavery in Ancient Greece go as far back as Mycenaean Greece. It is often said that the Greeks as well as philosophers such as Aristotle accepted the theory of natural slavery i.e. that some men are slaves by nature. At the time of Plato and Socrates, slavery was so accepted by the Greeks (including philosophers) that few people indeed protested it as an institution, although there were in fact a few voices of opposition Aristotle in Politics, Book 1, Chapter 6 noted and then discounted three voices opposed to his view of slavery, a jurist, philosopher and one other:

But that those who take the opposite view have in a certain way right on their side, may be easily seen. For the words slavery and slave are used in two senses. There is a slave or slavery by law as well as by nature. The law of which I speak is a sort of convention- the law by which whatever is taken in war is supposed to belong to the victors. But this right many jurists impeach, as they would an orator who brought forward an unconstitutional measure: they detest the notion that, because one man has the power of doing violence and is superior in brute strength, another shall be his slave and subject. Even among philosophers there is a difference of opinion. The origin of the dispute, and what makes the views invade each other's territory, is as follows: in some sense virtue, when furnished with means, has actually the greatest power of exercising force; and as superior power is only found where there is superior excellence of some kind, power seems to imply virtue, and the dispute to be simply one about justice (for it is due to one party identifying justice with goodwill while the other identifies it with the mere rule of the stronger). If these views are thus set out separately, the other views have no force or plausibility against the view that the superior in virtue ought to rule, or be master. Others, clinging, as they think, simply to a principle of justice (for law and custom are a sort of justice), assume that slavery in accordance with the custom of war is justified by law, but at the same moment they deny this. For what if the cause of the war be unjust? And again, no one would ever say he is a slave who is unworthy to be a slave. Were this the case, men of the highest rank would be slaves and the children of slaves if they or their parents chance to have been taken captive and sold. Wherefore Hellenes do not like to call Hellenes slaves, but confine the term to barbarians. Yet, in using this language, they really mean the natural slave of whom we spoke at first; for it must be admitted that some are slaves everywhere, others nowhere.

During the 8th and the 7th centuries BC, in the course of the two Messenian Wars the Spartansmarker reduced an entire population to a pseudo-slavery called helotry. According to Herodotus (IX, 28–29), helots were seven times as numerous as Spartans. In some Ancient Greek city states about 30% of the population consisted of slaves, but paid and slave labor seem to have been equally important.

Greeks however were among the first Europeans to abolish slavery with their constitution on 1823, which specifically noted that "in Greek territory no human being can be sold or bought, no matter his or her religion, and if a slave enters Greece, he is automatically considered an absolutely free man or woman and nobody can make claims on him or her".


Romans inherited the institution of slavery from the Greeks and the Phoeniciansmarker. As the Roman Republic expanded outward, entire populations were enslaved, thus creating an ample supply to work in Rome's farms and households. The people subjected to Roman slavery came from all over Europe and the Mediterranean. Such oppression by an elite minority eventually led to slave revolts (see Roman Servile Wars); the Third Servile War led by Spartacus was the most famous and severe. Greeks, Berbers, Germans, Britons, Thracians, Gauls (or Celts), Jews, Arabs, and many more were slaves used not only for labor, but also for amusement (e.g. gladiators and sex slaves). If a slave ran away, he was liable to be crucified. By the late Republican era, slavery had become a vital economic pillar in the wealth of Rome.


The Vikings and Scandinavia

In the Viking era starting c. 793, the Norse raiders often captured and enslaved military weaker peoples they encountered. In the Nordic countries the slaves were called thralls (Old Norse: Þræll). The thralls were mostly from Western Europe, among them many Franks, Anglo-Saxons, and Celts. Many Irish slaves participated in the colonization of Icelandmarker. There is evidence of German, Baltic, Slavic and Latin slaves as well. The slave trade was one of the pillars of Norse commerce during the 6th through 11th centuries. The Persian traveller Ibn Rustah described how Swedish Vikings, the Varangians or Rus, terrorized and enslaved the Slavs. The slave raids came to an end when Catholicism became widespread throughout Scandinavia. As in the rest of Catholic Europe, the Scandinavian representatives for the church held that a Christian could not morally own another Christian. The thrall system was finally abolished in the mid-14th century in Scandinavia.

Middle Ages

Chaos and invasion made the taking of slaves habitual throughout Europe in the early Middle Ages. St. Patrick, himself captured and sold as a slave, protested an attack that enslaved newly baptized Christians in his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus.

Slavery during the Early Middle Ages had several distinct sources. The Vikings raided across Europe, though their slave raids were the most destructive in the British Isles and Eastern Europe. While the Vikings kept some slaves for themselves as servants, known as thralls, most people captured by the Vikings would be sold on the Byzantine or Islamic markets. In the West the targets of Viking slavery were primarily English, Irish, and Scottish, while in the East they were mainly Slavs. The Viking slave trade slowly ended in the 1000s, as the Vikings settled in the European territories they once raided, Christianized, and merged with the local populace.

The Islamic World was also a main factor in Medieval European slavery. From the early 700s until the early Modern time period (rough the 18th or 19th centuries) Muslims consistently took European slaves. This slavery began during the Muslim Conquest of Visigothic Spain and Portugal in the 8th century. The Muslim powers of Iberia both raided for slaves and purchased slaves from European merchants, often the Jewish Radhanites, one of the few groups that could easily move between the Christian and Islamic worlds. As the Muslims failed to conquer Europe in the 8th century they took to pirate raids against the shores of Spain, southern Portugal and France, and Italy, that would last roughly from the 9th century until the 12th century, when the Italian city-states of Genoamarker, Venicemarker, and Pisamarker, along with the Spanish kingdoms of Aragonmarker and Castile, as well as the Sicilian Normans, began to dominate the Mediterraneanmarker. The Middle Ages from 1100 to 1500 saw a continuation of the European slave trade, though with a shift from the Western Mediterranean Islamic nations to the Eastern, as Venice and Genoa, in firm control of the Eastern Mediterranean from the 12th century and the Black Seamarker from the 13th century sold both Slavic and Baltic slaves, as well as Georgians, Turks, and other ethnic groups of the Black Sea and Caucasus, to the Muslim nations of the Middle East. The sale of European slaves by Europeans slowly ended as the Slavic and Baltic ethnic groups Christianized by the Late Middle Ages. European slaves in the Islamic World would, however, continue into the Modern time period as Muslim pirates, primarily Algerians, with the support of the Ottoman Empire, raided European coasts and shipping from the 16th to the 19th centuries, ending their attacks with the naval decline of the Ottoman Empire in the late 16th and 17th centuries, as well as the European conquest of North Africa throughout the 19th century.

The Mongol invasions and conquests in the 13th century made the situation worse. The Mongols enslaved skilled individuals, women and children and marched them to Karakorummarker or Sarai, whence they were sold throughout Eurasia. Many of these slaves were shipped to the slave market in Novgorod.

Slave commerce during the Late Middle Ages was mainly in the hands of Venetianmarker and Genoese merchants and cartels, who were involved in the slave trade with the Golden Horde. In 1382 the Golden Horde under Khan Tokhtamysh sacked Moscow, burning the city and carrying off thousands of inhabitants as slaves. Between 1414 and 1423, some 10,000 eastern European slaves were sold in Venicemarker. Genoese merchants organized the slave trade from the Crimeamarker to Mamluk Egypt. For years the Khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan routinely made raids on Russian principalities forslaves and to plunder towns. Russian chronicles record about 40 raids of Kazan Khans on the Russian territories in the first half of the 16th century. In 1521, the combined forces of Crimean Khan Mehmed Giray and his Kazan allies attacked Moscow and captured thousands of slaves.

In 1441, Haci I Giray declared independence from the Golden Horde and established the Crimean Khanate. For a long time, until the early 18th century, the khanate maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. In a process called the "harvesting of the steppe", they enslaved many Slavic peasants. About 30 major Tatar raids were recorded into Muscovitemarker territories between 1558-1596. In 1571, the Crimean Tatars attacked and sacked Moscow, burning everything but the Kremlin and taking thousands of captives as slaves. In Crimeamarker, about 75% of the population consisted of slaves.

Medieval Spain and Portugal were the scene of almost constant warfare between Muslims and Christians. Periodic raiding expeditions were sent from Al-Andalusmarker to ravage the Iberian Christian kingdoms, bringing back booty and slaves. In a raid against Lisbonmarker, Portugal in 1189, for example, the Almohad caliph Yaqub al-Mansur took 3,000 female and child captives, while his governor of Córdobamarker, in a subsequent attack upon Silves, Portugal in 1191, took 3,000 Christian slaves.

The Byzantine-Ottoman wars and the Ottoman wars in Europe brought large numbers of Christian slaves into the Islamic world too. After the battle of Lepantomarker approximately 12,000 Christian galleyslaves were freed from the Ottoman Turks. Christians were also selling Muslim slaves captured in war. The Knights of Malta attacked pirates and Muslim shipping, and their base became a centre for slave trading, selling captured North Africans and Turks. Maltamarker remained a slave market until well into the late 18th century. It required a thousand slaves to equip merely the galleys (ships) of the Order.

Slavery in Poland was forbidden in the 15th century; in Lithuaniamarker, slavery was formally abolished in 1588; they were replaced by the second enserfment. Slavery remained a minor institution in Russia until the 1723, when the Peter the Great converted the household slaves into house serfs. Russian agricultural slaves were formally converted into serfs earlier in 1679. The runaway Polish and Russian serfs and kholops known as Cossacks (‘outlaws’) formed autonomous communities in the southern steppes.


The 15th century Portuguese exploration of the African coast is commonly regarded as the harbinger of European colonialism. In 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued the papal bull Dum Diversas, granting Afonso V of Portugal the right to reduce any "Saracens, pagans and any other unbelievers" to hereditary slavery which legitimized slave trade under Catholic beliefs of that time. This approval of slavery was reaffirmed and extended in his Romanus Pontifex bull of 1455. These papal bulls came to serve as a justification for the subsequent era of slave trade and European colonialism. Although for a short period as in 1462, Pius II declared slavery to be "a great crime". The followers of the church of England and Protestants did not use the papal bull as a justification. The position of the church was to condemn the slavery of Christians, but slavery was regarded as an old established and necessary institution which supplied Europe with the necessary workforce. In the 16th century African slaves had substituted almost all other ethnicities and religious enslaved groups in Europe. Within the Portuguese territory of Brazil, and even beyond its original borders, the enslavement of native Americans was carried out by the Bandeirantes.

Among many other European slave markets, Genoamarker, Venicemarker and Verdun-sur-Meusemarker were some well known markets, their importance and demand growing after the great plague of the 14th century which decimated much of the European work force.The maritime town of Lagos, Portugalmarker, was the first slave market created in Portugal for the sale of imported African slaves - the Mercado de Escravos, opened in 1444. In 1441, the first slaves were brought to Portugal from northern Mauritaniamarker. Prince Henry the Navigator, major sponsor of the Portuguese African expeditions, as of any other merchandise, taxed one fifth of the selling price of the slaves imported to Portugal. By the year 1552 black African slaves made up 10 percent of the population of Lisbonmarker. In the second half of the 16th century, the Crown gave up the monopoly on slave trade and the focus of European trade in African slaves shifted from import to Europe to slave transports directly to tropical colonies in the Americas - in the case of Portugal, especially Brazilmarker. In the 15th century one third of the slaves were resold to the African market in exchange of gold.


Spain had to fight against relatively powerful civilizations of the New World. However, the Spanish conquest of the indigenous peoples in the Americas was also facilitated by the spread of diseases (e.g. smallpox) due to lack of biological immunity. (like the Europeans that had lack of biological immunity to African diseases) Natives were used as forced labor (the Spanish employed the pre-Columbian draft system called the mita), but the diseases caused a labor shortage and so the Spanish colonists were gradually involved in the Atlantic slave trade.

The first Europeans to use African slaves in the New World were the Spaniards who laborers on islands such as Cubamarker and Hispaniolamarker, where the alarming decline in the native population had spurred the first royal laws protecting the native population (Laws of Burgos, 1512-1513). The first African slaves arrived in Hispaniola in 1501.

Great Britain and Ireland

Before, during and after Roman times, the practice of slavery was common in the British Isles. The peoples of Britain and Ireland continued the practice of the slavery system, often taking as slaves the peoples of vanquished territories. Ireland and Denmark were known to be ready markets for captured Anglo Saxon and Celtic slaves, although they are reputed to have been traded throughout Europe. Pope Gregory I reputably made the pun, Non Angli, sed Angeli ("Not Angles, but Angels"), after a response to his query regarding the identity of a group of fair-haired Angles slave children whom he had observed in the marketplace. Chattel slavery of English Christians was discontinued when William of Normandy conquered England in 1066 , but according to the Domesday Book census in 1086, 10% of the country's population were serfs, able to own land and possessions, but forever tied to their lord's lands.. In 1102, The Council of Westminster, a collection of nobles, issued a decree: "Let no one hereafter presume to engage in that nefarious trade in which hitherto in England men were usually sold like brute animals." However, the Council had no legislative powers, and no act of law was valid unless signed by the monarch.

The last form of enforced servitude in Britain (villeinage) had disappeared by the beginning of the 17th century . Indentured servitude, now considered a form of slavery, was later practiced in the 17th century as a form of punishment. Following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, as many as 550,000 Irish men, women and children were forced into indentured service and transported to the colonies in the British West Indies and British America.. The Britishmarker used North America as a penal colony through a system of indentured servitude. Convicts would be transported by private sector merchants and auctioned off to plantation owners upon arrival in the colonies. It is estimated that some 50,000 British convicts were sent to colonial America, representing perhaps one-quarter of all British emigrants during the eighteenth century.. It is estimated that over half of all white immigrants to Colonial America during the 17th and 18th centuries consisted of redemptioners, migrants would had sold themselves into a period of indentured servitude in order to gain passage to the new world.

From the 16th to 19th century, Barbary Corsairs raided the coasts of Europe and attacked lone ships at sea. From 1609 to 1616, Englandmarker lost 466 merchant ships to Barbary pirates. 160 English ships were captured by Algerians between 1677 and 1680.. Many of the captured sailors were made into slaves. The corsairs were no strangers to the South West of England where raids were known in a number of coastal communities. Around 1645 Barbary Pirates under command of the Dutch renegade Jan Janszoon operating from the Moroccan port of Salémarker occupied the island of Lundymarker. During this time there were reports of captured slaves being sent to Algiers.

Irelandmarker, despite it's northern position, was not immune from attacks by the corsairs. In June 1631 Murat Reis, with pirates from Algiersmarker and armed troops of the Ottoman Empire, stormed ashore at the little harbor village of Baltimore, County Corkmarker. They captured almost all the villagers and took them away to a life of slavery in North Africa. The prisoners were destined for a variety of fates — some lived out their days chained to the oars as galley slaves, while others would spend long years in the scented seclusion of the harem or within the walls of the sultan's palace. Only two of them ever saw Irelandmarker again.

Britain played a prominent role in the Atlantic slave trade which began around the mid-fifteenth century when Portuguese interests in Africa moved away from the fabled deposits of gold to a much more readily available commodity; slaves. Slavery was a legal institution in all of the 13 American colonies, and the profits of the slave trade and of West Indianmarker plantations amounted to 5% of the British economy at the time of the Industrial Revolution. In 1807, following many years of lobbying by the Abolitionist movement, the British Parliamentmarker voted to make the slave trade illegal anywhere in the empire. Thereafter Britain took a prominent role in combating the trade, although it took another generation before slavery itself was abolished in the British empire. Between 1808 and 1860, the West Africa Squadron seized approximately 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans who were aboard. Action was also taken against African leaders who refused to agree to British treaties to outlaw the trade, for example against "the usurping King of Lagosmarker", deposed in 1851. Anti-slavery treaties were signed with over 50 African rulers.

In 1811, Arthur William Hodge was the first slave owner executed for the murder of a slave in the British West Indies. He was not, however, as some have claimed, the first white person to have been lawfully executed for the killing of a slave.

Pre-industrial Europe

Galley with rowing slaves

It became the custom among the Mediterraneanmarker powers to sentence condemned criminals to row in the war-galleys of the state (initially only in time of war). The French Huguenots filled the galleys after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and Camisard rebellion. Galley-slaves lived in unsavoury conditions, so even though some sentences prescribed a restricted number of years, most rowers would eventually die, even if they survived shipwreck and slaughter or torture at the hands of enemies or of pirates. Naval forces often turned 'infidel' prisoners-of-war into galley-slaves. Several well-known historical figures served time as galley slaves after being captured by the enemy—the Ottoman corsair and admiral Turgut Reis and the Knights Hospitaller Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette among them.

The so-called second serfdom took place in Eastern Europe during this period (particularly in Austria-Hungary, Prussia, Russia and Poland). During the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, Ukraine was controlled by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. During this period, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians were sold into slavery to the Turks. Only in 1768 was a law passed in Poland that discontinued the nobility's right of life or death over serfs. Serfdom remained the practice in most of Russia until 19 February 1861. Some of the Roma people were enslaved over five centuries in Romaniamarker until abolition in 1864 (see Slavery in Romania).

Slavery in the French Republicmarker was abolished on 4 February 1794 however it was re-established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804. Slavery would be permanently abolished in France after his first exile to Elbamarker in 1814. The Haitian Revolution established Haitimarker as a free republic ruled by blacks, the first of its kind. At the time of the revolution, Haiti was known as Saint-Domingue and was a colony of France.

Nazi Germany and its Occupied Territories

Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazi regime created many concentration camps in Germany and its occupied territories. Prisoners in Nazi concentration camps were typically enslaved and worked to death on short rations and in bad conditions, or killed if they became unable to work. Millions died as a direct result of forced labor under the Nazis. See for instance Eugen Kogon's publication The Theory and Practice of Hell: The German Concentration Camps and the System Behind Them

About 12 million forced laborers, most of whom were Eastern Europeans, were employed in the World War II German war economy. More than 2,000 German companies profited from slave labor during the Nazi era, including Daimler-Benz, Deutsche Bank, Siemens, Volkswagen, Hoechst, Dresdner Bank, Krupp, Allianzmarker, BASFmarker, Bayer, BMW and Degussa.

Soviet Union

Between 1930 and 1960, the Sovietmarker regime created many Lager labor camps in Siberiamarker and Central Asia. There were at least 476 separate camp complexes, each one comprising hundreds, even thousands of individual camps. It is estimated that there may have been 5-7 million people in these camps at any one time. In later years the camps also held victims of Stalin’s purges as well as World War II prisoners. It is possible that approximately 10% of prisoners died each year. Out of the 91,000Germans captured alive after the Battle of Stalingradmarker, only 6,000 survived the Gulag and returned home. Many of these prisoners, however, had died of illness contracted during the siege of Stalingrad and in the forced march into captivity.

Probably the worst of the camp complexes were the three built north of the Arctic circle at Kolyma, Norilskmarker and Vorkutamarker. Prisoners in Soviet labor camps were worked to death with a mix of extreme production quotas, brutality, hunger and the harsh elements. In all, more than 18 million people passed through the Gulag, with further millions being deported and exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union. The fatality rate was as high as 80% during the first months in many camps. Immediately after the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, the NKVD massacred about 100,000 prisoners who awaited deportation either to NKVD prisons in Moscow or to the Gulag. Michael McFaul, in his New York Times article of 11 June 2003, entitled 'Books of the Times; Camps of Terror, Often Overlooked' [340349], has this to say about the state of contemporary dialogue on Soviet slavery:

It should now be known to all serious scholars that the camps began under Lenin and not Stalin. It should be recognized by all that people were sent to the camps not because of what they did, but because of who they were. Some may be surprised to learn about the economic function that the camps were designed to perform. Under Stalin, the camps were simply a crueler but equally inefficient way to exploit labor in the cause of building socialism than the one practiced outside the camps in the Soviet Union. Yet, even this economic role of the camps has been exposed before.

What is remarkable is that the facts about this monstrous system so well documented in Applebaum's book are still so poorly known and even, by some, contested. For decades, academic historians have gravitated away from event-focused history and toward social history. Yet, the social history of the gulag somehow has escaped notice. Compared with the volumes and volumes written about the Holocaust, the literature on the gulag is thin.

(The article draws attention to Anne Applebaum's Pulitzer Prize winning text Gulag: A History [340350])

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the impoverished former Eastern bloc countries such as Albaniamarker, Moldovamarker, Romaniamarker, Bulgariamarker, Russia, Belarusmarker and Ukrainemarker have been identified as major trafficking source countries for women and children. Young women and girls are often lured to wealthier countries by the promises of money and work and then reduced to sexual slavery. It is estimated that 2/3 of women trafficked for prostitution worldwide annually come from Eastern Europe, three-quarters have never worked as prostitutes before. The major destinations are Western Europe (Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK, Greece), the Middle East (Turkey, Israel, the United Arab Emirates), Asia, Russia and the United States.

It is estimated that half million Ukrainian women were trafficked abroad since 1991 (80% of all unemployed in Ukrainemarker are women). Russia is a major source of women trafficked globally for the purpose of sexual exploitation, Russian women are in prostitution in over 50 countries. In poverty-stricken Moldovamarker, where the unemployment rate for women ranges as high as 68% and one-third of the workforce live and work abroad, experts estimate that since the collapse of the Soviet Union between 200,000 and 400,000 women have been sold into prostitution abroad — perhaps up to 10% of the female population.

Slavery in the Muslim World

[[Image:BainbridgeTribute.jpg|thumb|Capt. William Bainbridge paying tribute to the Dey of Algiers. Gradually in the 18th century slave raids became less frequent, but theBarbary pirates continued to enslave captured crews. Payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary states amounted to 20% of United States government annual revenues in 1800.]]

The Arab slave trade lasted more than a millennium. Slaves in the Arab World came from different many different regions, including Sub-Saharan Africa (mainly Zanj), the Caucasus (mainly Circassians), Central Asia (mainly Tartars), and Central and Eastern Europe (mainly Saqaliba).

The medieval scholar and traveller Ibn Battuta states several times that he was given or purchased slaves. The Arab or Middle Eastern slave trade is thought to have originated with trans-Saharan slavery. Arab, Indian, and Oriental traders were involved in the capture and transport of slaves northward across the Sahara desert and the Indian Ocean region into Arabia and the Middle East, Persiamarker, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The slave trade from East Africa to Arabia was dominated by Arab and African traders in the coastal cities of Zanzibarmarker, Dar Es Salaammarker and Mombasamarker. Tens of thousands of black Zanj slaves were imported to lower Iraqmarker, where they may have, according to Richard Hellie, constituted at least a half of the total population there in the 9th and 10th centuries. At the same time, many tens of thousands of slaves in the region were also imported from Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Male slaves were employed as servants, soldiers, or laborers, while female slaves were traded to Middle Eastern countries and kingdoms by Arab, Indian, or Oriental traders, some as domestic servants and others in harems. Some historians estimate that between 11 and 17 million slaves crossed the Red Seamarker, Indian Ocean, and Sahara Desert from 650 to 1900 AD. The Moors, starting in the 8th century, raided coastal areas around the Mediterraneanmarker and Atlantic Oceanmarker, and became known as the Barbary pirates. It is estimated that they captured 1.25 million slaves from Western Europe and North America between the 16th and 19th centuries.

In 1400 Timur the Lame invaded Armeniamarker and Georgiamarker. More than 60,000 people from the Caucasus were captured as slaves, and many districts of Armenia were depopulated.

From 1569 the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth suffered a series of Tatar invasions, the goal of which was to loot, pillage and capture slaves into jasyr. The borderland area to the south-east was in a state of semi-permanent warfare until the 18th century. Some researchers estimate that altogether more than 3 million people, predominantly Ukrainians but also Circassians, Russians, Belarusians, Poles and Jews were captured and enslaved during the time of the Crimean Khanate. Russian conquest of the Crimea led to the abolition of slavery by the 1780s.

Slavery was an important part of Ottoman society. In Constantinoplemarker (today Istanbulmarker), about 1/5 of the population consisted of slaves. As late as 1908 women slaves were still sold in the Ottoman Empire. In the middle of the 14th century, Murad I built his own personal slave army called the Kapıkulu. The new force was based on the sultan's right to a fifth of the war booty, which he interpreted to include captives taken in battle. The captive slaves were converted to Islam and trained in the sultan's personal service. In the devşirme (Turkish for 'gathering'), young Christian boys from the Balkans were taken away from their homes and families, converted to Islam and enlisted into special soldier classes of the Ottoman army or the civil service. These soldier classes were named Janissaries, the most famous branch of the Kapıkulu. The Janissaries eventually became a decisive factor in the Ottoman invasions of Europe. Most of the military commanders of the Ottoman forces, imperial administrators and de facto rulers of the Ottoman Empire, such as Pargalı İbrahim Pasha and Sokollu Mehmet Paşa, were recruited in this way. By 1609 the Sultan's Kapıkulu forces increased to about 100,000. By this time however, the expeditions for young Christian boys were rare. The increased numbers of janissaries came from Muslim peasants who were now allowed into service as a result of increased military demands of 17th century warfare.

The Mamluks were slave soldiers who converted to Islam and served the Muslim caliphs and the Ayyubid sultans during the Middle Ages. The first mamluks served the Abbasid caliphs in 9th century Baghdadmarker. Over time they became a powerful military caste, and on more than one occasion they seized power for themselves, for example, ruling Egyptmarker in the years 1250-1517. From 1250 Egyptmarker had been ruled by the Bahri dynasty of Kipchak Turk origin. White slaves from the Caucasus served in the army and formed an elite corps of troops eventually revolting in Egypt to form the Burgi dynasty. Mamluks were mainly responsible for the expulsion of the Crusaders from Palestine and preventing the Mongol Ilkhanate of Persia and Iraq from entering Egyptmarker.

The Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail "the Bloodthirsty" (1672-1727) raised a corps of 150,000 black slaves, called his Black Guard, who coerced the country into submission.

Nautical traders from the United States became targets, and frequent victims, of the Barbary pirates, as soon as that nation began trading with Europe and refused to pay the required tribute to the North African states.

Modern times

The Arab or Middle Eastern slave trade continued into the early 1900s, and by some accounts continue to this day. Slavery in Moroccomarker was outlawed in the 1930s. As recently as the 1950s, Saudi Arabiamarker had an estimated 450,000 slaves, 20% of the population. It is estimated that as many as 200,000 black south Sudanese children and women (mostly from the Dinka tribe sold by the Sudanese Arabs of the north) have been taken into slavery in Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War. In Mauritaniamarker it is estimated that up to 600,000 men, women and children, or 20% of the population, are currently enslaved, many of them used as bonded labor. Slavery in Mauritania was criminalized in August 2007.

The Arab trade in slaves continued into the 20th century. Written travelogues and other historical works are replete with references to slaves owned by wealthy traders, nobility and heads of state in the Arabian Peninsula well into the 1920s. Slave owning and slave-like working conditions have been documented up to and including the present, in countries of the Middle East. Though the subject is considered taboo in the affected regions, a leading Saudi government cleric and author of the country's religious curriculum has called for the outright re-legalization of slavery.

Children as young as two years old are used for slavery as child camel jockeys across the Arab countries of the Middle East. Although strict laws have been introduced recently in Qatarmarker and UAEmarker, thanks to better awareness of the issue and lobbying by human rights organisations such as the Ansar Burney Trust, the use of children still continues in outlying areas and during secret night-time races.

Many of the Iraqi women fleeing the Iraq War are turning to prostitution, others are trafficked abroad, to countries like Syria, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Iran. In Syriamarker alone, an estimated 50,000 Iraqi refugee girls and women, many of them widows, are forced into prostitution. Cheap Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists. The clients come from wealthier countries in the Middle East - many are Saudimarker men. High prices are offered for virgins.


"The country generally between Caubul (Kabulmarker) and the Oxusmarker appears to be in a very lawless state; slavery is as rife as ever, and extends through Hazara, Badakshan, Wakhan, Sirikul (Sarikol), Kunjūt (Hunza), &c. A slave, if a strong man likely to stand work well, is, in Upper Badakshan, considered to be of the same value as one of the large dogs of the country, or of a horse, being about the equivalent of Rs 80. A slave girl is valued at from four horses or more, according to her looks &c.; men are, however, almost always exchanged for dogs. When I was in Little Tibet (Ladakhmarker),a returned slave who had been in the Kashmirmarker army took refuge in my camp; he said he was well enough treated as to food &c., but he could never get over having been exchanged for a dog, and constantly harped on the subject, the man who sold him evidently thinking the dog the better animal of the two. In Lower Badakshan, and more distant places, the price of slaves is much enhanced, and payment is made in coin."

In response to the Hazara uprising of 1892, the Afghan Emir Abdur Rahman declared a "Jihad" against the Shiites. His large army defeated the rebellion at its center, in Oruzgan, by 1892 and the local population was being massacred. According to S. A. Mousavi, "thousands of Hazara men, women, and children were sold as slaves in the markets of Kabul and Qandahar, while numerous towers of human heads were made from the defeated rebels as a warning to others who might challenge the rule of the Amir". Until the 20th century, some Hazaras were still kept as slaves by the Pashtuns; although Amanullah Khan banned slavery in Afghanistanmarker during his reign, the practice carried on unofficially for many more years.


In most African societies, there was very little difference between the free peasants and the feudal vassal peasants. Vassals of the Songhay Muslim Empire were used primarily in agriculture; they paid tribute to their masters in crop and service but they were slightly restricted in custom and convenience. These people were more an occupational caste, as their bondage was relative.In the Kanem Bornu Empire, vassals were three classes beneath the nobles. Marriage between captor and captive was far from rare, blurring the anticipated roles.

French historian Fernand Braudel noted that slavery was endemic in Africa and part of the structure of everyday life. "Slavery came in different disguises in different societies: there were court slaves, slaves incorporated into princely armies, domestic and household slaves, slaves working on the land, in industry, as couriers and intermediaries, even as traders" (Braudel 1984 p. 435). During the 16th century, Europe began to outpace the Arab world in the export traffic, with its slave traffic from Africa to the Americas. The Dutchmarker imported slaves from Asia into their colony in South Africa. In 1807 the United Kingdom, which held vast colonial territories on the African continent (including southern Africa), made the international slave trade illegal throughout its empire. The end of the slave trade and the decline of slavery was imposed upon Africa by its European conquerors.

The nature of the slave societies differed greatly across the continent. There were large plantations worked by slaves in Egyptmarker, the Sudanmarker and Zanzibarmarker, but this was not a typical use of slaves in Africa as a whole. In most African slave societies, slaves were protected and incorporated into the slave-owning family.
In Senegambia, between 1300 and 1900, close to one-third of the population was enslaved. In early Islamic states of the western Sudan, including Ghana (750-1076), Mali (1235–1645), Segou (1712–1861), and Songhai (1275-1591), about a third of the population were slaves. In Sierra Leonemarker in the 19th century about half of the population consisted of slaves. In the 19th century at least half the population was enslaved among the Duala of the Cameroonmarker, the Igbo and other peoples of the lower Niger, the Kongo, and the Kasanje kingdom and Chokwe of Angolamarker. Among the Ashanti and Yoruba a third of the population consisted of slaves. The population of the Kanem was about a third-slave. It was perhaps 40% in Bornu (1396–1893). Between 1750 and 1900 from one- to two-thirds of the entire population of the Fulani jihad states consisted of slaves. The population of the Sokotomarker caliphate formed by Hausas in the northern Nigeriamarker and Cameroon was half-slave in the 19th century. It is estimated that up to 90% of the population of Arab-Swahili Zanzibarmarker was enslaved. Roughly half the population of Madagascarmarker was enslaved.

The Anti-Slavery Society estimated that there were 2,000,000 slaves in the early 1930s Ethiopiamarker, out of an estimated population of between 8 and 16 million. Slavery continued in Ethiopia until the brief Second Italo-Abyssinian War in October 1935, when it was abolished by order of the Italian occupying forces. In response to pressure by Western Allies of World War II Ethiopia officially abolished slavery and serfdom after regaining its independence in 1942. On 26 August 1942 Haile Selassie issued a proclamation outlawing slavery.

When British rule was first imposed on the Sokoto Caliphatemarker and the surrounding areas in northern Nigeria at the turn of the 20th century, approximately 2 million to 2.5 million people there were slaves. Slavery in northern Nigeria was finally outlawed in 1936.

Elikia M’bokolo, April 1998, Le Monde diplomatique. Quote: "The African continent was bled of its human resources via all possible routes. Across the Sahara, through the Red Sea, from the Indian Ocean ports and across the Atlantic. At least ten centuries of slavery for the benefit of the Muslim countries (from the ninth to the nineteenth)." He continues: "Four million slaves exported via the Red Seamarker, another four million through the Swahili ports of the Indian Ocean, perhaps as many as nine million along the trans-Saharan caravan route, and eleven to twenty million (depending on the author) across the Atlantic Ocean"

North Africa

Barbary pirates

According to Robert Davis between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates and sold as slaves in North Africa and Ottoman Empire between the 16th and 19th centuries. The coastal villages and towns of Italy, Portugal, Spain and Mediterranean islands were frequently attacked by them and long stretches of the Italian, Portuguese and Spanish coasts were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants; after 1600 Barbary pirates occasionally entered the Atlantic and struck as far north as Icelandmarker.

In 1544, Khair ad Din captured Ischiamarker, taking 4,000 prisoners in the process, and deported to slavery some 9,000 inhabitants of Liparimarker, almost the entire population. In 1551, Turgut Reis (known as Dragut in the West) enslaved the entire population of the Maltese island Gozomarker, between 5,000 and 6,000, sending them to Libyamarker. When pirates sacked Viestemarker in southern Italy in 1554 they took 7,000 slaves. In 1555, Turgut Reis sailed to Corsicamarker and ransacked Bastiamarker, taking 6,000 prisoners. In 1558 Barbary corsairs captured the town of Ciutadellamarker (Minorcamarker), destroyed it, slaughtered the inhabitants and carried off 3,000 survivors to Istanbulmarker as slaves. In 1563 Turgut Reis landed at the shores of the province of Granadamarker, Spain, and captured the coastal settlements in the area like Almuñécarmarker, along with 4,000 prisoners. Barbary pirates frequently attacked the Balearic islandsmarker, resulting in many coastal watchtowers and fortified churches being erected. The threat was so severe that the island of Formentera became uninhabited.

In Portugal for instance, the coastal city of Nazaré was raided several times during until the 16th century when the local fortress was built (according to Pedro Penteado and his book based in the historical ecclesiastic diaries of Nazaré). The city of Lisbon built the Torre de Belémmarker to defend the capital against these pirates.

Between 1609 and 1616 England alone had a staggering 466 merchant ships lost to Barbary pirates. 160 British ships were captured by Algerians between 1677 and 1680. Slave-taking persisted into the 19th century when Barbary pirates would capture ships and enslave the crew. Even the United States was not immune. In 1783 the United States made peace with, and gained recognition from, the British monarchy, and in 1784 the first American ship was seized by pirates from Moroccomarker. Payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary states amounted to 20% of United States government annual revenues in 1800. It was not until 1815 that naval victories in the Barbary Wars ended tribute payments by the U.S., although some European nations continued annual payments until the 1830s.

Among the most important slave markets where Pirates operated in Mediterranean Europe were the ports of Majorcamarker, Toulonmarker, Marseillemarker, Genoamarker, Pisamarker, Leghornmarker and Maltamarker. In Africa, the most important were the ports of Morrocomarker, Tripolimarker, Algiersmarker and Tunismarker.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Slaves being transported in Africa, 19th century engraving.

David Livingstone wrote of the slave trade:

"To overdraw its evils is a simple impossibility....
We passed a slave woman shot or stabbed through the body and lying on the path.
[Onlookers] said an Arab who passed early that morning had done it in anger at losing the price he had given for her, because she was unable to walk any longer.
We passed a woman tied by the neck to a tree and dead....
We came upon a man dead from starvation....
The strangest disease I have seen in this country seems really to be broken heartedness, and it attacks free men who have been captured and made slaves."

Livingstone estimated that 80,000 Africans died each year before ever reaching the slave markets of Zanzibarmarker. Zanzibar was once East Africa's main slave-trading port, and under Omani Arabs in the 19th century as many as 50,000 slaves were passing through the city each year.

Prior to the 16th century, the bulk of slaves exported from Africa were shipped from East Africa to the Arabian peninsula. Zanzibarmarker became a leading port in this trade. Arab slave traders differed from European ones in that they would often conduct raiding expeditions themselves, sometimes penetrating deep into the continent. They also differed in that their market greatly preferred the purchase of female slaves over male ones.

The increased presence of European rivals along the East coast led Arab traders to concentrate on the overland slave caravan routes across the Sahara from the Sahel to North Africa. The German explorer Gustav Nachtigal reported seeing slave caravans departing from Kukawamarker in Bornu bound for Tripolimarker and Egyptmarker in 1870. The slave trade represented the major source of revenue for the state of Bornu as late as 1898. The eastern regions of the Central African Republicmarker have never recovered demographically from the impact of nineteenth-century raids from the Sudanmarker and still have a population density of less than 1 person/km. During the 1870s, European initiatives against the slave trade caused an economic crisis in northern Sudan, precipitating the rise of Mahdist forces. Mahdi’s victory created an Islamic state, one that quickly reinstituted slavery.

The Middle Passage, the crossing of the Atlanticmarker to the Americas, endured by slaves laid out in rows in the holds of ships, was only one element of the well-known triangular trade engaged in by Portuguese, Dutch, French and British. Ships having landed slaves in Caribbeanmarker ports would take on sugar, indigo, raw cotton, and later coffee, and make for Liverpoolmarker, Nantesmarker, Lisbonmarker or Amsterdammarker. Ships leaving European ports for West Africa would carry printed cotton textiles, some originally from India, copper utensils and bangles, pewter plates and pots, iron bars more valued than gold, hats, trinkets, gunpowder and firearms and alcohol. Tropical shipworms were eliminated in the cold Atlantic waters, and at each unloading, a profit was made.

The Atlantic slave trade peaked in the late 18th century, when the largest number of slaves were captured on raiding expeditions into the interior of West Africa. These expeditions were typically carried out by African kingdoms, such as the Oyo empire (Yoruba), Kong Empire, Kingdom of Benin, Kingdom of Fouta Djallon, Kingdom of Fouta Tooro, Kingdom of Koya, Kingdom of Khasso, Kingdom of Kaabu, Fante Confederacy, Ashanti Confederacy, Aro Confederacy and the kingdom of Dahomey. Europeans rarely entered the interior of Africa, due to fear of disease and moreover fierce African resistance. The slaves were brought to coastal outposts where they were traded for goods. The people captured on these expeditions were shipped by European traders to the colonies of the New World. As a result of the War of the Spanish Succession, the United Kingdom obtained the monopoly (asiento de negros) of transporting captive Africans to Spanish America. It is estimated that over the centuries, twelve to twenty million people were shipped as slaves from Africa by European traders, of whom some 15 percent died during the terrible voyage, many during the arduous journey through the Middle Passage. The great majority were shipped to the Americas, but some also went to Europe and Southern Africa.

Before the arrival of the Portuguese, slavery had already existed in Kingdom of Kongo. Despite its establishment within his kingdom, Afonso I of Kongo believed that the slave trade should be subject to Kongo law. When he suspected the Portuguese of receiving illegally enslaved persons to sell, he wrote letters to the King João III of Portugal in 1526 imploring him to put a stop to the practice.

The kings of Dahomey sold their war captives into transatlantic slavery, who otherwise would have been killed in a ceremony known as the Annual Customs. As one of West Africa's principal slave states, Dahomey became extremely unpopular with neighbouring peoples. Like the Bambara Empire to the east, the Khasso kingdoms depended heavily on the slave trade for their economy. A family's status was indicated by the number of slaves it owned, leading to wars for the sole purpose of taking more captives. This trade led the Khasso into increasing contact with the European settlements of Africa's west coast, particularly the French. Benin grew increasingly rich during the 16th and 17th centuries on the slave trade with Europe; slaves from enemy states of the interior were sold, and carried to the Americas in Dutch and Portuguese ships. The Bight of Benin's shore soon came to be known as the "Slave Coast".

In the 1840s, King Gezo of Dahomey said:

"The slave trade is the ruling principle of my people.
It is the source and the glory of their wealth…the mother lulls the child to sleep with notes of triumph over an enemy reduced to slavery…"

In 1807, the UK Parliament passed the Bill that abolished the trading of slaves. The King of Bonny (now in Nigeriamarker) was horrified at the conclusion of the practice:

"We think this trade must go on.
That is the verdict of our oracle and the priests.
They say that your country, however great, can never stop a trade ordained by God himself."

Some historians conclude that the total loss in persons removed, those who died on the arduous march to coastal slave marts and those killed in slave raids, far exceeded the 65–75 million inhabitants remaining in Sub-Saharan Africa at the trade's end. Others believe that slavers had a vested interest in capturing rather than killing, and in keeping their captives alive; and that this coupled with the disproportionate removal of males and the introduction of new crops from the Americas (cassava, maize) would have limited general population decline to particular regions of western Africa around 1760–1810, and in Mozambiquemarker and neighbouring areas half a century later. There has also been speculation that within Africa, females were most often captured as brides, with their male protectors being a "bycatch" who would have been killed if there had not been an export market for them.

During the period from late 19th and early 20th centuries, demand for the labor-intensive harvesting of rubber drove frontier expansion and slavery. The personal monarchy of Belgian King Leopold II in the Congo Free Statemarker saw mass killings and slavery to extract rubber.

Modern times

Slavery in Mauritania was legally abolished by laws passed in 1908, 1961, and 1981, but it was only criminalised in 2007, and several human rights organizations report that the practice continues there. In Nigermarker, slavery is also a current phenomenon; a study has found that more than 800,000 people are still slaves, almost 8% of the population. Descent-based slavery, where generations of the same family are born into bondage, is traditionally practised by at least four of Niger’s eight ethnic groups. It is especially rife among the warlike Tuareg, in the wild deserts of north and west Niger, who roam near the borders with Malimarker and Algeriamarker.

The trading of children has been reported in modern Nigeriamarker and Beninmarker. In parts of Ghanamarker, a family may be punished for an offense by having to turn over a virgin female to serve as a sex slave within the offended family. In this instance, the woman does not gain the title or status of "wife". In parts of Ghana, Togomarker, and Beninmarker, shrine slavery persists, despite being illegal in Ghana since 1998. In this system of ritual servitude, sometimes called trokosi (in Ghana) or voodoosi in Togo and Benin, young virgin girls are given as slaves to traditional shrines and are used sexually by the priests in addition to providing free labor for the shrine. Slavery in Sudan continues as part of an ongoing civil war. Evidence emerged in the late 1990s of systematic slavery in cacao plantations in West Africa; see the chocolate and slavery article.

The Americas

Among indigenous peoples

In Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica the most common forms of slavery were those of prisoners-of-war and debtors. People unable to pay back a debt could be sentenced to work as a slave to the person owed until the debt was worked off. Warfare was important to the Maya society, because raids on surrounding areas provided the victims required for human sacrifice, as well as slaves for the construction of temples. Most victims of human sacrifice were prisoners of war or slaves. According to Aztec writings, as many as 84,000 people were sacrificed at a temple inauguration in 1487. Slavery was not usually hereditary; children of slaves were born free. In the Inca Empire, workers were subject to a mita in lieu of taxes which they paid by working for the government. Each ayllu, or extended family, would decide which family member to send to do the work. It is unclear if this labor draft or corvée counts as slavery. The Spanish adopted this system, particularly for their silver mines in Bolivia.

Other slave-owning societies and tribes of the New World were, for example, the Tehuelche of Patagonia, the Comanche of Texas, the Caribs of Dominica, the Tupinambá of Brazil, the fishing societies, such as the Yurok, that lived along the coast from what is now Alaska to California, the Pawnee and Klamath. Many of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, such as the Haida and Tlingit, were traditionally known as fierce warriors and slave-traders, raiding as far as Californiamarker. Slavery was hereditary, the slaves being prisoners of war. Among some Pacific Northwest tribes about a quarter of the population were slaves. One slave narrative was composed by an Englishman, John R. Jewitt, who had been taken alive when his ship was captured in 1802; his memoir provides a detailed look at life as a slave, and asserts that a large number were held.


Slavery was a mainstay of the Brazilian colonial economy, especially in mining and sugar cane production.Brazil obtained 37% of all African slaves traded, and more than 3 million slaves were sent to this one country. Starting around 1550, the Portuguese began to trade African slaves to work the sugar plantations, once the native Tupi people deteriorated. Although Portuguese Prime Minister Marquês de Pombalmarker abolished slavery in mainland Portugal on the 12 February 1761, slavery continued in her overseas colonies. Slavery was practiced among all classes. Slaves were owned by upper and middle classes, by the poor, and even by other slaves.

From São Paulomarker, the Bandeirantes, adventurers mostly of mixed Portuguese and native ancestry, penetrated steadily westward in their search for Indian slaves. Along the Amazon river and its major tributaries, repeated slaving raids and punitive attacks left their mark. One French traveler in the 1740s described hundreds of miles of river banks with no sign of human life and once-thriving villages that were devastated and empty. In some areas of the Amazon Basin, and particularly among the Guarani of southern Brazilmarker and Paraguaymarker, the Jesuits had organized their Jesuit Reductions along military lines to fight the slavers. In the mid to late 19th century, many Amerindians were enslaved to work on rubber plantations.

Resistance and abolition

Escaped slaves formed Maroon communities which played an important role in the histories of Brazil and other countries such as Suriname, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Jamaica. In Brazil, the Maroon villages were called palenques or quilombos. Maroons survived by growing vegetables and hunting. They also raided plantations. At these attacks, the maroons would burn crops, steal livestock and tools, kill slavemasters, and invite other slaves to join their communities.

Jean-Baptiste Debret, a French painter who was active in Brazil in the first decades of the 19th Century, started out with painting portraits of members of the Brazilian Imperial family, but soon became concerned with the slavery of both blacks and indigenous inhabitants. His paintings on the subject (two appear on this page) helped bring attention to the subject in both Europe and Brazil itself.

The Clapham Sect, a group of evangelical reformers, campaigned during much of the 19th century for the United Kingdom to use its influence and power to stop the traffic of slaves to Brazil. Besides moral qualms, the low cost of slave-produced Brazilian sugar meant that British colonies in the West Indies were unable to match the market prices of Brazilian sugar, and each Briton was consuming 16 pounds (7 kg) of sugar a year by the 19th century. This combination led to intensive pressure from the British government for Brazil to end this practice, which it did by steps over several decades.

First, foreign slave trade was banned in 1850. Then, in 1871, the sons of the slaves were freed. In 1885, slaves aged over 60 years were freed. The Paraguayan War contributed to ending slavery, since many slaves enlisted in exchange for freedom. In Colonial Brazil, slavery was more a social than a racial condition. In fact, some of the greatest figures of the time, like the writer Machado de Assis and the engineer André Rebouças had black ancestry.

Brazil's 1877-78 Grande Seca (Great Drought) in the cotton-growing northeast led to major turmoil, starvation, poverty and internal migration. As wealthy plantation holders rushed to sell their slaves south, popular resistance and resentment grew, inspiring numerous emancipation societies. They succeeded in banning slavery altogether in the province of Ceará by 1884. Slavery was legally ended nationwide on 13 May by the Lei Aurea ("Golden Law") of 1888. In fact, it was an institution in decadence at these times, as since the 1880s the country had begun to use European immigrant labor instead. Brazil was the last nation in the Western Hemispheremarker to abolish slavery.

Modern times

However, in 2004, the government acknowledged to the United Nations that at least 25,000 Brazilians work under conditions "analogous to slavery." The top anti-slavery official puts the number of modern slaves at 50,000. More than 1,000 slave laborers were freed from a sugar cane plantation in 2007 by the Brazilian government, making it the largest anti-slavery raid in modern times in Brazil.

Other South American countries

During the period from late 19th and early 20th centuries, demand for the labor-intensive harvesting of rubber drove frontier expansion and slavery in Latin America and elsewhere. Indigenous people were enslaved as part of the rubber boom in Ecuadormarker, Perumarker, Colombiamarker, and Brazilmarker. In Central America, rubber tappers participated in the enslavement of the indigenous Guatuso-Maleku people for domestic service.

British and French Caribbean

Slavery was commonly used in the parts of the Caribbeanmarker controlled by France and the British Empire. The Lesser Antilles islands of Barbados, St. Kitts, Antigua, Martinique and Guadeloupe, which were the first important slave societies of the Caribbean, began the widespread use of African slaves by the end of the 17th century, as their economies converted from sugar production. Among white Caribbeans there exists an underclass known as Redlegs; the descendants of English, Scottish and Irish indentured servants, and prisoners imported to the island. The Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series of 1701 records 25,000 slaves in Barbados, of which 21,700 were white.

By the middle of the 18th century, British Jamaicamarker and French Saint-Domingue had become the largest slave societies of the region, rivaling Brazil as a destination for enslaved Africans. Due to overwork and tropical diseases, the death rates for Caribbean slaves were greater than birth rates. The conditions led to increasing numbers of slave revolts, escaped slaves forming Maroon communities and fighting guerrilla wars against the plantation owners. Campaigns against slavery began during the period of the Enlightenment and grew to large proportions in Europe and United States during the 19th century (see Abolitionism).

To regularise slavery, in 1685 Louis XIV had enacted the code noir, which accorded certain human rights to slaves and responsibilities to the master, who was obliged to feed, clothe and provide for the general well-being of his slaves. Free blacks owned one-third of the plantation property and one-quarter of the slaves in Saint Domingue (later Haitimarker). Slavery in the French Republicmarker was abolished on 4 February 1794. When it became clear that Napoleon intended to re-establish slavery, Dessalines and Pétion switched sides, in October 1802. On 1 January 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the new leader under the dictatorial 1801 constitution, declared Haitimarker a free republic. Thus Haiti became the second independent nation in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States, and the only successful slave rebellion in world history.

Whitehallmarker in England announced in 1833 that slaves in its territories would be totally freed by 1840. In the meantime, the government told slaves they had to remain on their plantations and would have the status of "apprentices" for the next six years. On 1st of August 1834, an unarmed group of mainly elderly Negroes being addressed by the Governor at Government House about the new laws, began chanting: "Pas de six ans. Point de six ans" ("Not six years. No six years"), drowning out the voice of the Governor. Peaceful protests continued until a resolution to abolish apprenticeship was passed and de facto freedom was achieved. Full emancipation for all was legally granted ahead of schedule on 1 August, 1838, making Trinidad the first British colony with slaves to completely abolish slavery.

After Great Britain abolished slavery, it began to pressure other nations to do the same. France, too, abolished slavery. By then Saint-Domingue had already won its independence and formed the independent Republic of Haitimarker. French-controlled islands were then limited to a few smaller islands in the Lesser Antilles.

North America

Main Articles: Slavery in Colonial America, Slavery in Canada, History of slavery in the United States, Atlantic slave trade, Indian slavery, Slavery among the Cherokee, History of slavery in Kentucky, History of slavery in Missouri

Early events

The first slaves used by Europeans in what later became United States territory were among Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón's colonization attempt of North Carolinamarker in 1526. The attempt was a failure, lasting only one year; the slaves revolted and fled into the wilderness to live among the Cofitachiqui people.[340351]

The first historically significant slave in what would become the United States was Estevanico, a Moroccanmarker slave and member of the Narváez expedition in 1528 and acted as a guide on Fray Marcos de Niza's expedition to find the Seven Cities of Gold in 1539.

In 1619 twenty Africans were brought by a Dutch soldier and sold to the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia as indentured servants. It is possible that Africans were brought to Virginia prior to this, both because neither John Rolfe our source on the 1619 shipment nor any contemporary of his ever says that this was the first contingent of Africans to come to Virginia and because the 1625 Virginia census lists one black as coming on a ship that appears to only have landed people in Virginia prior to 1619. The transformation from indentured servitude to racial slavery happened gradually. It was not until 1661 that a reference to slavery entered into Virginiamarker law, directed at Caucasian servants who ran away with a black servant. It was not until the Slave Codes of 1705 that the status of African Americans as slaves would be sealed. This status would last for another 160 years, until after the end of the American Civil War with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865.

Only a fraction of the enslaved Africans brought to the New World ended up in British North America-- perhaps 5%. The vast majority of slaves shipped across the Atlantic were sent to the Caribbeanmarker sugar colonies, Brazilmarker, or Spanish America.

By the 1680s, enslaved Africans were imported to English colonies in great numbers, and the practice continued to be protected by the English Crown. By that time, English farmers in the northern colonies were purchasing slaves in great numbers.

Slavery in American colonial law

  • 1642: Massachusettsmarker becomes the first colony to legalize slavery.
  • 1650: Connecticutmarker legalizes slavery.
  • 1661: Virginiamarker officially recognizes slavery by statute.
  • 1662: A Virginiamarker statute declares that children born would have the same status as their mother.
  • 1663: Marylandmarker legalizes slavery.
  • 1664: Slavery is legalized in New York and New Jerseymarker.

Development of slavery

The shift from indentured servants to African slaves was prompted by a dwindling class of former servants who had worked through the terms of their indentures and thus became competitors to their former masters. These newly freed servants were rarely able to support themselves comfortably, and the tobacco industry was increasingly dominated by large planters. This caused domestic unrest culminating in Bacon's Rebellion. Eventually, chattel slavery became the norm in regions dominated by plantations.

Many slaves in British North America were owned by plantation owners who lived in Britain. The British courts had made a series of contradictory rulings on the legality of slavery which encouraged several thousand slaves to flee the newly-independent United States as refugees along with the retreating British in 1783. The British courts having ruled in 1772 that such slaves could not be forcibly returned to North America (see James Somersett and Somersett's Case for a review of the Somerset Decision), the British government resettled them as free men in Sierra Leonemarker. See Black Loyalists.

Several slave rebellions took place during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Early United States law

Through the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (also known as the Freedom Ordinance) under the Continental Congress, slavery was prohibited in the territories north of the Ohio River. In the East, though, slavery was not abolished until later. The importation of slaves into the United States was banned on 1 January 1808; but not the internal slave trade, nor involvement in the international slave trade externally.

Aggregation of northern free states gave rise to one contiguous geographic area, north of the Ohio River and the old Mason-Dixon linemarker. This separation of a free North and an enslaved South launched a massive political, cultural and economic struggle.

Refugees from slavery fled the South across the Ohio River to the North via the Underground Railroad, and their presence agitated Northerners. Midwestern state governments asserted States Rights arguments to refuse federal jurisdiction over fugitives. Some juries exercised their right of jury nullification and refused to convict those indicted under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

The Dred Scott decision of 1857 asserted that one could take one's property anywhere, even if one's property was chattel and one crossed into a free territory. It also asserted that African Americans could not be citizens, as many Northern states granted blacks citizenship, who (in some states) could even vote. This was an example of Slave Power, the plantation aristocracy's attempt to control the North. While traditionally, this has been viewed as turning Northern public opinion against the South, it should be noted that pro-slavery forces made gains in the 1858 elections and it was the anti-slavery Republicans who were on the defensive on the issue. After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, armed conflict broke out in Kansas Territory, where the question of whether it would be admitted to the Union as a slave state or a free state had been left to the inhabitants. The radical abolitionist John Brown was active in the mayhem and killing in "Bleeding Kansas." The true turning point in public opinion is better fixed at the Lecompton Constitution fraud. Pro-slavery elements in Kansas had arrived first from Missouri and quickly organized a territorial government that excluded abolitionists. Through the machinery of the territory and violence, the pro-slavery faction attempted to force an unpopular pro-slavery constitution through the state. This infuriated Northern Democrats, who supported popular sovereignty, and was exacerbated by the Buchanan administration reneging on a promise to submit the constitution to a referendum - which it would surely fail. Anti-slavery legislators took office under the banner of the Republican Party.

Civil War

Approximately one Southern family in four held slaves prior to war. According to the 1860 U.S. census, about 385,000 individuals (i.e. 1.4% of White Americans in the country, or 4.8% of southern whites) owned one or more slaves. 95% of blacks lived in the South, comprising one third of the population there as opposed to 1% of the population of the North. Consequently, fears of eventual emancipation were much greater in the South than in the North.

In the election of 1860, the Republicans swept Abraham Lincoln into the Presidency (with only 39.8% of the popular vote) and legislators into Congress. Lincoln however, did not appear on the ballots in most southern states and his election split the nation along sectional lines. After decades of controlling the Federal Government, several of the southern states declared they had seceded from the U.S. (the Union) in an attempt to form the Confederate States of America.

Northern leaders like Lincoln viewed the prospect of a new Southern nation, with control over the Mississippi River and the West, as unacceptable. This led to the outbreak of the Civil War, which spelled the end for chattel slavery in America. However, in August 1862, Lincoln wrote to editor Horace Greeley that despite his own moral objection to slavery, the objective of the war was to save the Union and not either to save or to destroy slavery. He went on to say that if he could save the Union without freeing a single slave, or by freeing all the slaves, or by freeing only some of the slaves, he would do it. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was a powerful move that proclaimed freedom for slaves within the Confederacy as soon as the Union Army arrived; Lincoln had no power to free slaves in the border states or the rest of the Union, so he promoted the Thirteenth Amendment, which freed all the remaining slaves in December 1865. The proclamation made the abolition of slavery an official war goal and it was implemented as the Union captured territory from the Confederacy. Slaves in many parts of the south were freed by Union armies or when they simply left their former owners. Over 150,000 joined the Union Army and Navy as soldiers and sailors.

The remaining slaves within the United States remained enslaved until the final ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution on 6 December 1865 (with final recognition of the amendment on 18 December), eight months after the cessation of hostilities. Only in Kentucky did a significant slave population remain by that time, although there were some in West Virginia and Delaware.

After the failure of Reconstruction, freed slaves in the United States were treated as second class citizens. For decades after their emancipation, many former slaves living in the South sharecropped and had a low standard of living. In some states, it was only after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s that blacks obtained legal protection from racial discrimination (see segregation).

Modern times

Although slavery has been illegal in the United States for a century and a half, the United States Department of Labormarker occasionally prosecutes cases against people for false imprisonment and involuntary servitude. These cases often involve illegal immigrants who are forced to work as slaves in factories to pay off a debt claimed by the people who transported them into the United States. Other cases have involved domestic workers.

Long Islandermarker Mahender Sabhnani, 52, an international perfume maker, was convicted by US Federal District Court Judge Arthur Spatt (in Central Islipmarker N.Y.) of slavery of 2 Indonesian housekeepers in his $ 2 million Muttontown home, and sentenced on 27 June 2008 to 3 years and 4 months in prison with fine of $ 12,500. His wife, Varsha, was sentenced to 11 years in prison. A 12-count federal indictment included charges of forced labor, conspiracy, involuntary servitude and harboring aliens, specifically "beating slaves with brooms and umbrellas, slashed with knives, and forced to climb stairs and to take freezing showers for misdeeds that included sleeping late or stealing food from the trash because they were poorly fed."


Indian subcontinent

The Greek historian Arrian writes in his book Indica:

"This also is remarkable in India, that all Indians are free, and no Indian at all is a slave.
In this the Indians agree with the Lacedaemoniansmarker.
Yet the Lacedaemonians have Helots for slaves, who perform the duties of slaves; but the Indians have no slaves at all, much less is any Indian a slave."

Though any formalised slave trade has not existed in South Asia, unfree labor has existed for centuries in the Medieval ages, in different forms. The most common forms have been kinds of bonded labor. During the epoch of the Mughals, debt bondage reached its peak, and it was common for money lenders to make slaves of peasants and others who failed to repay debts. Under these practices, more than one generation could be forced into unfree labor; for example, a son could be sold into bonded labor for life to pay off the debt, along with interest.

The early Arab invaders of Sind in the 700's, the armies of the Umayyad commander Muhammad bin Qasim, are reported to have enslaved tens of thousands of Indian prisoners, including both soldiers and civilians. In the early 11th century Tarikh al-Yamini, the Arab historian Al-Utbi recorded that in 1001 the armies of Mahmud of Ghazna conquered Peshawar and Waihand, "in the midst of the land of Hindustan", and captured some 100,000 youths. Later, following his twelfth expedition into India in 1018-19, Mahmud is reported to have returned to with such a large number of slaves that their value was reduced to only two to ten dirhams each. This unusually low price made, according to Al-Utbi, "merchants [come] from distant cities to purchase them, so that the countries of Central Asia, Iraq and Khurasan were swelled with them, and the fair and the dark, the rich and the poor, mingled in one common slavery". Elliot and Dowson refers to "five hundred thousand slaves, beautiful men and women.". Later, during the Delhi Sultanate period (1206-1555), references to the abundant availability of low-priced Indian slaves abound. Levi attributes this primarily to the vast human resources of India, compared to its neighbours to the north and west (Mughal Indian population being approximately 12 to 20 times that of Turan and Iran at the end of 16th century) ..

Arab slave traders also brought slaves as early as the first century AD from Africa. Most of the African slaves were brought however in the 17th century and were taken into Western India. The Siddi people are of mainly East African descent.

Much of the northern and central parts of the subcontinent was ruled by the so-called Slave Dynasty of Turkic origin from 1206-1290: Qutb-ud-din Aybak, a slave of Muhammad Ghori rose to power following his master's death. For almost a century, his descendants ruled presiding over the introduction of Tankas and building of Qutub Minarmarker.

According to Sir Henry Bartle Frere (who sat on the Viceroy's Council), there were an estimated 8,000,000 or 9,000,000 slaves in India in 1841. In Malabar, about 15% of the population were slaves. Slavery was abolished in both Hindu and Muslim India by the Indian Slavery Act V. of 1843. Provisions of the Indian Penal Code of 1861 effectively abolished slavery in India by making the enslavement of human beings a criminal offense.

Modern times

According to Human Rights Watch, there are currently more than 4100 bonded laborers in India, who work as slaves to pay off debts; a majority of them are Dalits. There are also an estimated 5 million bonded workers in Pakistanmarker. As many as 200,000 Nepalimarker girls, manyunder 14, have been sold into the sex slavery in India. Nepalese women and girls, especially virgins, are favored in India because of their fair skin and young looks.


Slavery was abolished in Nepalmarker in 1924. In 1997, a human rights agency reported that 40,000 Nepalese workers are subject to slavery and 200,000 kept in bonded labour. Nepal's Maoist-led government has abolished the slavery-like Haliya system in 2008.

As many as 200,000 Nepali girls, many under the age of 14, have been sold into sex slavery in India. Nepalese women and girls, especially virgins, are favoured in India because of their fair skin and young looks.


Slavery in China has repeatedly come in and out of favor. Due to the enormous population and relatively high development of the region throughout most of its history, China has had a large workforce.

"In the houses of wealthy citizens, it is not unusual to find twenty to thirty slaves attending upon a family. Even citizens in the humbler walks of life deem it necessary to have each a slave or two. The price of a slave varies, of course, according to age, health, strength, and general appearance. The average price is from fifty to one hundred dollars, but in time of war, or revolution, poor parents, on the verge of starvation, offer their sons and daughters for sale at remarkably low prices. I remember instances of parents, rendered destitute by the marauding bands who invested the two southern Kwangs in 1854-55, offering to sell their daughters in Canton for five dollars apiece. . . .

The slavery to which these unfortunate persons are subject, is perpetual and hereditary, and they have no parental authority over their offspring. The great-grandsons of slaves, however, can, if they have sufficient means, purchase their freedom. . . .

Masters seem to have the same uncontrolled power over their slaves that parents have over their children. Thus a master is not called to account for the death of a slave, although it is the result of punishment inflicted by him."

"In former times slaves were slain and offered in sacrifice to the spirit of the owner when dead, or by him to his ancestors: sometimes given as a substitute to suffer the death penalty incurred by his owner or in fulfillment of a vow. It used to be customary in Kuei-chou (and Szü-chuan too, I believe) to inter living slaves with their dead owners; the slaves were to keep a lamp burning in the tomb....

Slavery exists in China, especially in Canton and Peking.... It is a common thing for well-to-do people to present a couple of slave girls to a daughter as part of her marriage dowery [sic]. Nearly all prostitutes are slaves. It is, however, customary with respectable people to release their slave girls when marriageable. Some people sell their slaves girls to men wanting a wife for themselves or for a son of theirs. However, all types of slavery are illegal today in China.

I have bought three different girls: two in Szü-chuan for a few taels each, less than fifteen dollars. One I released in Tientsin, another died in Hongkong; the other I gave in marriage to a faithful servant of mine. Some are worth much money at Shanghai."

Private slavery in China was technically abolished in 1910, although the practice apparently still continues unofficially in some regions.

Slavery in pre-modern China

Boo-i Aha (Manchu:booi niyalma) (Chinese translation:包衣阿哈) is a Manchu word literally translated as "household person" and sometimes rendered as "slaves". In his book China Marches West, Peter C. Perdue stated:"In 1624(After Nurhachi's invasion of Liaodongmarker) "Chinese households....while those with less were made into slaves." The Manchu was establishing close personal and paternalist relationship between masters and their slaves, as Nurhachi said:" The Master should love the slaves and eat the same food as him". Perdue further pointed out that boo-i aha "did not correspond exactly to the Chinese category of "bondservant-slave" (Chinese:奴僕), even though many western scholars would directly translate "boo-i" as "bondservant".

Various classes of Booi

  1. booi niru a Manchu word (Chinese:包衣佐領), meaning Neiwufu Upper Three Banner's platoon leader of about 300 men .
  2. Booi guanlin a Manchu word (Chinese:包衣管領), meaning the manager of booi doing all the domestic duties of Neiwufu.
  3. Booi amban is also a Manchu word, meaning high official, (Chinese:包衣大臣).
  4. Estate bannerman (Chinese:庄头旗人) are those renegade Chinese who joined the Jurchen, or original civilians-soldiers working in the fields. These people were all turned into booi aha, or field slaves.


Slavery in Japan was, for most of its history, indigenous, since the export and import of slaves was restricted by Japan being a group of islands. Korean slaves were shipped to Japan during the Japanese invasions of Korea in the 16th century. The export of a slave from Japan is recorded in 3rd century Chinese document, although the system involved is unclear. These slaves were called , lit. "living mouth".

In the 8th century, a slave was called and series of laws on slavery was issued. In an area of present-day Ibaraki Prefecturemarker, out of a population of 190,000, around 2,000 were slaves; the proportion is believed to have been even higher in western Japan.

By the time of the Sengoku period (1467-1615), the attitude that slavery was anachronistic had become widespread. Oda Nobunaga is said to have had an African slave or former-slave in his retinue.

In late 16th century Japanmarker, slavery was officially banned; but forms of contract and indentured labor persisted alongside the period penal codes' forced labor. Somewhat later, the Edo period penal laws prescribed "non-free labor" for the immediate family of executed criminals in Article 17 of the Gotōke reijō (Tokugawa House Laws), but the practice never became common. The 1711 Gotōke reijō was compiled from over 600 statutes promulgated between 1597 and 1696.

World War II

As the Empire of Japanmarker annexed Asian countries, from the late 19th century onwards, archaic institutions including slavery were abolished in those countries. However, during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War, the Japanese military used millions of civilians and prisoners of war as forced labor, on projects such as the Burma Railwaymarker.

According to a joint study by historians including Zhifen Ju, Mitsuyoshi Himeta, Toru Kubo and Mark Peattie, more than 10 million Chinese civilians were mobilized by the Kōa-in (Japanese Asia Development Board) for forced labour. According to the Japanese military's own record, nearly 25% of 140,000 Allied POWs died while interned in Japanese prison camps where they were forced to work (U.S. POWs died at a rate of 37%). More than 100,000 civilians and POWs died in the construction of the Burma-Siam Railwaymarker. The U.S. Library of Congress estimates that in Javamarker, between 4 and 10 million romusha (Japanese: "manual laborer"), were forced to work by the Japanese military. About 270,000 of these Javanese laborers were sent to other Japanese-held areas in South East Asia. Only 52,000 were repatriated to Java, meaning that there was a death rate of 80%. (For further details, see Japanese war crimes.)

Approximately 5,400,000 Koreans were conscripted into forced labor from 1939 to 1945. About 670,000 of them were taken to Japan, where about 60,000 died between 1939 and 1945 due mostly to exhaustion or poor working conditions. Many of those taken to Karafuto Prefecture (modern-day Sakhalinmarker) were trapped there at the end of the war, stripped of their nationality and denied repatriation by Japan; they became known as the Sakhalin Koreans. The total deaths of Korean forced laborers in Korea and Manchuria for those years is estimated to be between 270,000 and 810,000.

As many as 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, and some other countries such as the Philippines, Taiwan, Burma, the Dutch East Indies, Netherlands, and Australia were forced into sexual slavery during the World War II. (See Comfort women)


Indigenous slaves existed in Korea. Slavery was officially abolished with the Gabo Reform of 1894 but remained extant in reality until 1930. During the Joseon Dynastymarker (1392–1910) about 30% to 50% of the Korean population were slaves. Slavery was hereditary, as well as a form of legal punishment. There was a slave class with both government and privately owned slaves, and the government occasionally gave slaves to citizens of higher rank. Privately owned slaves could be inherited as personal property. During poor harvests and famine, many peasants would voluntarily become slaves in order to survive. In the case of private slaves they could buy their freedom.

Southeast Asia

There was a large slave class in Khmer Empire who built the enduring monuments in Angkor Watmarker and did most of the heavy work. Slaves had been taken captive from the mountain tribes. People unable to pay back a debt to the upper ruling class could be sentenced to work as a slave too. Between the 17th and the early 20th centuries one-quarter to one-third of the population of some areas of Thailandmarker and Burmamarker were slaves.

In Siammarker (Thailand), the war captives became the property of the king. During the reign of Rama III (1824-1851), there were an estimated 46,000 war slaves. Slaves from independent hill populations were "hunted incessantly and carried off as slaves by the Siamese, the Anamites, and the Cambodians" (Colquhoun 1885:53). Slavery was not abolished in Siam until 1905.

Yi people in Yunnanmarker practiced a complicated form of slavery. People were split into the Black Yi (nobles, 7% of the population), White Yi (commoners), Ajia (33% of the Yi population) and the Xiaxi (10%). Ajia and Xiaxi were slave castes. The White Yi were not slaves but had no freedom of movement. The Black Yi were famous for their slave-raids on Han Chinese communities. After the 1959 some 700,000 slaves were freed.

Slaves in Toraja society in Indonesiamarker were family property. Sometimes Torajans decided to become slaves when they incurred a debt, pledging to work as payment. Slaves could be taken during wars, and slave trading was common. Torajan slaves were sold and shipped out to Javamarker and Siammarker. Slaves could buy their freedom, but their children still inherited slave status. Slaves were prohibited from wearing bronze or gold, carving their houses, eating from the same dishes as their owners, or having sex with free women—a crime punishable by death. Slavery was abolished in 1909 by the Dutch East Indiesmarker government.

Modern times

There are currently an estimated 300,000 women and children involved in the sex trade throughout Southeast Asia. It is common that Thaimarker women are lured to Japan and sold to Yakuza-controlled brothels where they are forced to work off their price.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), an estimated 800,000people are subject to forced labor in Myanmarmarker. In November 2006, the International Labor Organization announced it will be seeking "to prosecute members of the ruling Myanmar junta for crimes against humanity" over the continuous forced labor of its citizens by the military at the International Court of Justicemarker.

Central Asia and the Caucasus

Russian conquest of the Caucasus led to the abolition of slavery by the 1860s and the conquest of the Central Asian Islamic khanates of Bukharamarker, Samarkandmarker, and Khivamarker by the 1870s. The Russian administration liberated the slaves of the Kazakhs in 1859. A notorious slave market for captured Russian and Persian slaves was centred in the Khanate of Khivamarker from the 17th to the 19th century. During the first half of the 19th century alone, some one million Persians, as well as an unknown number of Russians, were enslaved and transported to Central Asian khanates. When the Russian troops took Khiva in 1873 there were 29,300 Persian slaves, captured by Turkoman raiders. According of Josef Wolff (Report of 1843-1845) the population of the Khanate of Bukhara was one million two hundred thousand, of whom 200,000 were Persian slaves. At the beginning of the 21st century Chechens and Ingush kept Russian captives as slaves or in slave-like conditions in the mountains of the northern Caucasus.


In the first half of the nineteenth century, small-scale slave raids took place across Polynesia to supply labor and sex workers for the whaling and sealing trades, with examples from both the westerly and easterly extremes of the Polynesian triangle.By the 1860s this had grown to a larger scale operation with Peruvianmarker slave raids in the South Sea Islands to collect labor for the guano industry.


Ancient Hawaii was a caste society. People were born into specific social classes. Kauwa were the outcast or slave class. They are believed to have been war captives, or the descendents of war captives. Marriage between higher castes and the kauwa was strictly forbidden. The kauwa worked for the chiefs and were often used as human sacrifices at the luakini heiau. (They were not the only sacrifices; law-breakers of all castes or defeated political opponents were also acceptable as victims.)

New Zealand

In traditional Māori society of Aotearoa, prisoners of war became taurekareka, slaves, unless released, ransomed or tortured. With some exceptions, the child of a slave remained a slave. As far as it is possible to tell, slavery seems to have increased in the early nineteenth century, as a result of increased numbers of prisoners being taken by Māori military leaders such as Hongi Hika and Te Rauparaha in the Musket Wars, the need for labor to supply whalers and traders with food, flax and timber in return for western goods, and the missionary condemnation of cannibalism. Slavery was outlawed when the British annexed New Zealand in 1840, immediately prior to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, although it did not end completely until government was effectively extended over the whole of the country with the defeat of the Kingi movement in the Wars of the mid 1860s.

Chatham Islands

One group of Polynesians who migrated to the Chatham Islandsmarker became the Moriori who developed a largely pacifist culture. It was originally speculated that they settled the Chathams direct from Polynesia, but it is now widely believed they were disaffected Māori who emigrated from the South Island of New Zealand. Their pacifism left the Moriori unable to defend themselves when the islands were invaded by mainland Māori in the 1830s. Some 300 Moriori men, women and children were massacred and the remaining 1,200 to 1,300 survivors were enslaved.

Rapa Nui / Easter Island

The isolated island of Rapa Nuimarker/Easter Islandmarker was inhabited by the Rapanui, who suffered a series of slave raids from 1805 or earlier, culminating in a near genocidal experience in the 1860s. The 1805 raid was by American sealers and was one of a series that changed the attitude of the islanders to outside visitors, with reports in the 1820s and 1830s that all visitors received a hostile reception. In December 1862, Peruvianmarker slave raiders took between 1,400 and 2,000 islanders back to Peru to work in the guano industry; this was about a third of the island's population and included much of the island's leadership, the last ariki-mau and possibly the last who could read Rongorongo. After intervention by the French ambassador in Limamarker, the last 15 survivors were returned to the island, but brought with them smallpox, which further devastated the island.

Abolitionist movements

Slavery has existed, in one form or another, throughout the whole of human history. So, too, have movements to free large or distinct groups of slaves. Moses led Israelite slaves from ancient Egypt according to the Biblical Book of Exodus - possibly the first account of a movement to free slaves. {Exodus 5-20} However, abolitionism should be distinguished from efforts to help a particular group of slaves, or to restrict one practice, such as the slave trade.


In 1772, the Somersett Case (R. v. Knowles, ex parte Somersett) of the English Court of King's Bench ruled that slavery was unlawful in England (although not elsewhere in the British Empire). A similar case, that of Joseph Knight, took place in Scotland five years later and ruled slavery to be contrary to the law of Scotland.

Following the work of campaigners in the United Kingdom, such as William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was passed by Parliamentmarker on 25 March 1807, coming into effect the following year. The act imposed a fine of £100 for every slave found aboard a British ship. The intention was to outlaw entirely the Atlantic slave trade within the whole British Empire.

The significance of the abolition of the British slave trade lay in the number of people hitherto sold and carried by British slave vessels. Britain shipped 2,532,300 Africans across the Atlantic, equalling 41% of the total transport of 6,132,900 individuals. This made the British empire the biggest slave-trade contribiuter in the world due to the magnitude of the empire. A fact that made the abolition act all the more damaging to the global trade of slaves.

The Slavery Abolition Act, passed on 23 August 1833, outlawed slavery itself in the British colonies. On 1 August 1834 all slaves in the British West Indies, were emancipated, but still indentured to their former owners in an apprenticeship system. The intention of, was to educate former slaves to a trade but instead allowed slave owners to maintain ownership illegally. The act was finally repealed in 1838.

Britain abolished slavery in both Hindu and Muslim India by the Indian Slavery Act V. of 1843.

Domestic slavery practised by the educated African coastal elites (as well as interior traditional rulers) in Sierra Leonemarker was abolished in 1928. A study found practices of domestic slavery still widespread in rural areas in the 1970s.


There were slaves in mainland France (especially in trade ports such as Nantes or Bordeaux)., but the institution was never officially authorized there. However, slavery was of vital importance in France's Caribbeanmarker possessions, especially Saint-Domingue. In 1793, influenced by the french Declaration of the Rights of Man of August 1789 and unable to repress the massive slave revolt of August 1791 that had become the Haitian Revolution, the French Revolutionary commissioners Sonthonax and Polverel declared general emancipation. In Paris, on 4 February 1794, Abbé Grégoire and the Convention ratified this action by officially abolishing slavery in all French territories outside mainland France, freeing all the slaves both for moral and security reasons.

Napoleon sent troops to the Caribbean in 1802 to try to re-establish slavery due to the economic stress France was suffering while fighting all over Europe. They succeeded in Guadeloupemarker, but the ex-slaves of Saint-Domingue defeated the French corps that was sent and declared independence. This colony became Haiti, the first black republic, on 1 January 1804, with at its head the leader of the revolt,Toussaint Louverture.

United States

In 1688, four German Quakers in Germantownmarker, a small village outside Philadelphiamarker, wrote and presented a protest against the institution of slavery to their local Quaker Meeting. The Meeting did not know what to do and passed the petition up the chain of authority, where it continued to be ignored and was archived and forgotten for 150 years. In 1844 it was rediscovered and became a focus of the abolitionist movement. The 1688 Petition was the first American public document of its kind to protest slavery, and in addition was one of the first public documents to define universal human rights.

Slaves in the United States who escaped ownership would often make their way to Canada via the "Underground Railroad". The more famous of the African American abolitionists include former slaves Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. Many more people who opposed slavery and worked for abolition were northern whites, such as William Lloyd Garrison and John Brown. Slavery was legally abolished in 1865 by the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The British designated Sierra Leonemarker in Africa as a destination country for former slaves of the British Empire, and some Americans hoped to send freed American slaves to Liberiamarker in a similar kind of "repatriation".

While abolitionists agreed on the evils of slavery, there were differing opinions on what should happen after African Americans were freed. Some abolitionists, worried about the difficulties of integrating numerous uneducated people into a hostile environment, hoped to send freed people to Africa. By the time of Emancipation, most African-Americans were now native to the United States and did not want to leave. They believed that their labor had made the land theirs as well as that of the whites; trade unions feared competition in supplying an affordable labor force against former slaves. Most freed people stayed in the United States by choice.

Congress of Vienna

The Declaration of the Powers, on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, of 8th of February 1815 (Which also formed ACT, No. XV. of the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna of the same year) included in its first sentence the concept of the "principles of humanity and universal morality" as justification for ending a trade that was "odious in its continuance".

Twentieth century worldwide

The 1926 Slavery Convention, an initiative of the League of Nations, was a turning point in banning global slavery. Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the UN General Assembly, explicitly banned slavery. The United Nations 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery was convened to outlaw and ban slavery worldwide, including child slavery. In December 1966, the UN General Assembly adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was developed from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 8 of this international treaty bans slavery. The treaty came into force in March 1976 after it had been ratified by 35 nations. As of November 2003, 104 nations had ratified the treaty.According to the British Anti-Slavery Society, "Although there is no longer any state which recognizes any claim by a person to a right of property over another, there are an estimated 27 million people throughout the world, mainly children, in conditions of slavery."

See also

Ideals and organisations


  1. Introduction of Slavery
  2. Demography, Geography and the Sources of Roman Slaves, by W. V. Harris: The Journal of Roman Studies, 1999
  3. Roman Slavery
  4. BBC - History - Resisting Slavery in Ancient Rome
  5. Ben Kiernan "Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur", Yale University Press, 2007, ISBN 0300100981, 9780300100983, Pages 65-68
  6. Léonie J. Archer (1988). "Slavery and Other Forms of Unfree Labour: And Other Forms of Unfree Labour." History Workshop Centre for Social History (Oxford, England), Published by Routledge, ISBN 0415002036, 9780415002035, Page 28
  7. John M. Rist (1982) "Human Value: A Study in Ancient Philosophical Ethics." BRILL, ISBN 9004067574, 9789004067578, page 26
  8. Sparta - A Military City-State
  9. "Slavery" The Encyclopedia Americana, 1981, page 19
  11. Slavery and Thralldom: The Unfree in Viking Scandinavia
  12. Iceland History
  13. Origin of Vikings: Algeidjuborg trafficking of "valkyries" to Islam
  14. The Destruction of Kiev
  15. William of Rubruck's Account of the Mongols
  16. Life in 13th Century Novgorod -- Women and Class Structure
  17. The Effects of the Mongol Empire on Russia
  18. How To Reboot Reality — Chapter 2, Labor
  19. The Full Collection of the Russian Annals, vol.13, SPb, 1904
  20. The Tatar Khanate of Crimea - All Empires
  21. Supply of Slaves
  22. Moscow - Historical background
  23. Historical survey > Slave societies
  24. Ransoming Captives in Crusader Spain: The Order of Merced on the Christian-Islamic Frontier
  25. Ottoman Dhimmitude
  26. Famous Battles in History The Turks and Christians at Lepanto
  27. A medical service for slaves in Malta during the rule of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem
  28. Brief History of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem
  29. Historical survey > Ways of ending slavery
  30. Cossacks,
  31. Klein, Herbert. The Atlantic Slave Trade.
  32. Bales, Kevin. Understanding Global Slavery: A Reader
  33. Goodman, Joan E. (2001). A Long and Uncertain Journey: The 27,000 Mile Voyage of Vasco Da Gama. Mikaya Press, ISBN 096504937X.
  34. de Oliveira Marques, António Henrique R. (1972). History of Portugal. Columbia University Press, ISBN 0231031599, p. 158-160, 362-370.
  35. Thomas Foster Earle, K. J. P. Lowe "Black Africans in Renaissance Europe" p.157 Google
  36. David Northrup, "Africa's Discovery of Europe" p.8 ( Google)
  37. David A. Koplow Smallpox The Fight to Eradicate a Global Scourge
  38. U.S. Library of Congress
  39. Health in slavery
  40. Domesday Book Slave
  41. The curse of Cromwell, BBC See also "To Hell Or Barbados: The Ethnic Cleansing Of Ireland", by Sean O'Callaghan.
  42. Irish slaves in the Caribbean
  43. White Servitude
  44. Indentured Servitude in Colonial America
  45. Rees Davies, British Slaves on the Barbary Coast, BBC, July 1, 2003
  46. Was slavery the engine of economic growth?
  47. Sailing against slavery. By Jo Loosemore BBC
  48. The West African Squadron and slave trade
  49. John Andrew, The Hanging of Arthur Hodge[1], Xlibris, 2000, ISBN 0-7388-1930-1. The assertion is probably correct; there appear to be no other records of any British slave owners being executed for holding slaves, and, given the excitement which the Hodge trial excited, it seems improbable that another execution could have occurred without attracting attention. Slavery itself as an institution in the British West Indies only continued for another 23 years after Hodge's death.
  50. Vernon Pickering, A Concise History of the British Virgin Islands, ISBN 0934139059, page 48
  51. Records indicate at least two earlier incidents. On 23 November 1739, in Williamsburg, Virginia, two white men, Charles Quin and David White, were hanged for the murder of another white man's black slave; and on 21 April 1775, the Fredericksburg newspaper, the Virginia Gazette reported that a white man William Pitman had been hanged for the murder of his own black slave. Blacks in Colonial America, p101, Oscar Reiss, McFarland & Company, 1997; Virginia Gazette, 21 April 1775, University of Mary Washington Department of Historic Preservation archives
  52. The Last Galleys
  53. Huguenots and the Galleys
  54. French galley slaves of the ancien régime
  55. The Great Siege of 1565
  57. Roma Celebrate 150 years of Freedom 2005 Romania
  58. The Theory and Practice of Hell: The German Concentration Camps and the System Behind Them
  59. Final Compensation Pending for Former Nazi Forced Laborers
  60. Forced Labor at Ford Werke AG during the Second World War
  61. Comprehensive List Of German Companies That Used Slave Or Forced Labor During World War II Released
  62. German Companies Adopt Fund For Slave Laborers Under Nazis
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  65. Anne Applebaum -- Inside the Gulag
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  72. The Other Killing Machine
  73. Stalin's forgotten victims stuck in the gulag
  74. Eastern Europe Exports Flesh to the EU
  75. Crime gangs 'expand sex slavery into shires'
  76. Eastern Europe - Coalition Against Trafficking of Women
  77. A modern slave's brutal odyssey
  78. Moldova: Lower prices behind sex slavery boom and child prostitution
  79. The Russian Mafia in Asia
  80. The "Natasha" Trade - The Transnational Shadow Market of Trafficking in Women
  81. Poverty, crime and migration are acute issues as Eastern European cities continue to grow
  82. Russia: With No Jobs At Home, Women Fall Victim To Trafficking
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  108. Janissary
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  119. £400 for a Slave
  120. War and Genocide in Sudan
  121. The Lost Children of Sudan
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  123. Mauritanian MPs pass slavery law
  124. Saudi sheik: 'Slavery is a part of Islam'
  125. Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery in Saudi Arabia
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  135. Digital History Slavery Fact Sheets
  136. Tanzania - Stone Town of Zanzibar
  137. 18th and Early 19th Centuries. The Encyclopedia of World History
  138. Fulani slave-raids
  139. Central African Republic: History
  140. Twentieth Century Solutions of the Abolition of Slavery
  141. CJO - Abstract - Trading in slaves in Ethiopia, 1897–1938
  142. Ethiopia
  143. Chronology of slavery
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  145. The end of slavery, BBC World Service | The Story of Africa
  146. The impact of the slave trade on Africa
  147. The Crypt: Slaves in the Islamic world
  148. White slaves. Muslim masters.
  149. The mysteries and majesties of the Aeolian Islands
  150. History of Menorca
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  152. Watch-towers and fortified towns
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  156. Goodwin, Stefan. Africa's Legacies of Urbanization: Unfolding Saga of a Continent
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  160. Zanzibar
  161. Swahili Coast
  162. Central African Republic: Early history
  163. Civil War in the Sudan: Resources or Religion?
  164. Slave trade in the Sudan in the nineteenth century and its suppression in the years 1877-80.
  165. The Great Slave Empires Of Africa
  166. The Transatlantic Slave Trade
  167. African Political Ethics and the Slave Trade
  168. Museum Theme: The Kingdom of Dahomey
  169. Dahomey (historical kingdom, Africa)
  170. Benin seeks forgiveness for role in slave trade
  171. Le Mali précolonial
  172. The Story of Africa
  173. West is master of slave trade guilt
  174. African Slave Owners
  175. Adam Hochschild, King Leopold's Ghost
  176. The Shackles of Slavery in Niger
  177. Born to be a slave in Niger
  178. Maya Society
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  180. Evidence May Back Human Sacrifice Claims |LiveScience
  181. Bolivia - Ethnic Groups
  182. Slavery in the New World
  183. Digital History African American Voices
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  194. Involuntary Immigrants
  195. White Slavery, what the Scots already know
  196. The Irish in the Caribbean 1641-1837: An Overview
  197. Caribbean History
  198. Slavery and the Haitian Revolution
  199. Haiti, 1789 to 1806
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  207. Southern History
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  209., Man in Slave Case Sentenced to 3 Years
  210., 2nd NY millionaire gets prison in slavery case
  211. Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg, tr., The Chachnamah, an Ancient History of Sind, 1900, reprint (Delhi, 1979), pp. 154, 163. This thirteenth-century source claims to be a Persian translation of an (apparently lost) eighth century Arabic manuscript detailing the Islamic conquests of Sind.
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  213. Muhammad Qasim Firishta, Tarikh-i-Firishta (Lucknow, 1864).
  214. Andre Wink, Al-Hind: the Making of the Indo-Islamic World, vol. 2, The Slave Kings and the Islamic Conquest, 11th-13th Centuries (Leiden, 1997)
  215. Abu Nasr Muhammad al-Utbi, Tarikh al-Yamini (Delhi, 1847), tr. by James Reynolds, The Kitab-i-Yamini (London, 1858),
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  218. Dale, Indian Merchants,
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  220. Historical survey > Slave-owning societies
  221. Islamic Law and the Colonial Encounter in dumb ass British India
  222. Hindus Beyond the fucking Hindu Kush: Indians in the Central Asian Slave Trade
  223. India’s “hidden apartheid”
  224. The Untouchables
  225. Life as a modern slave in Pakistan
  226. Millions Suffer in Sex Slavery
  227. Fair skin and young looks: Nepalese victims of human trafficking languish in Indian brothels
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  230. Slavery criminalised in Nepal, 8 September 2008
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  233. Commemoration of the Abolition of Slavery Project
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  237. Hideyoshi and Korea
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  241. How Japanese companies built fortunes on American POWs
  242. Japanese Atrocities in the Philippines
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  245. Christopher Reed: Japan's Dirty Secret, One Million Korean Slaves
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  248. Comfort Women Were 'Raped': U.S. Ambassador to Japan
  249. Abe ignores evidence, say Australia's 'comfort women'
  250. Encyclopædia Britannica - Slavery
  251. Edward Willett Wagner - The Harvard University Gazette
  252. Korea, history pre-1945: slavery -- Encyclopaedia Britannica
  253. The Choson Era: Late Traditional Korea
  254. Korean Nobi
  255. Nobi: Rescuing the Nation from Slavery
  256. Cambodia Angkor Wat
  257. Windows on Asia
  258. Khmer Society - Angkor Wat
  259. Slavery
  260. Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Northern Thailand
  261. The Kingdom of Ayutthaya
  262. The Yi Nationality
  263. General Profile of the Yi
  264. The Yi ethnic minority
  265. Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement
  266. Toraja History and Cultural Relations
  267. Sex-slave trade flourishes in Thailand
  268. January 2006 "Woman's Dying Wish: to punish traffickers who ruined her life" The Nation, 23 January 2006
  269. A modern form of slavery: Trafficking of Burmese Women and Girls into Brothels in Thailand
  270. ILO cracks the whip at Yangon
  271. "Horrible Traffic in Circassian Women—Infanticide in Turkey," New York Daily Times, 6 August 1856
  272. Georgia in the Beginning of Feudal Decomposition. (XVIII cen.)
  273. Khiva, Bukhara, Khokand
  274. Traditional Institutions in Modern Kazakhstan
  275. Adventure in the East - TIME
  276. Ichan-Kala, Encyclopedia Britannica
  277. Fabled Cities of Central Asia: Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva: Robin Magowan, Vadim E. Gippenreiter
  278. Report of Josef Wolff 1843-1845
  279. Slave of the Caucasus
  280. Kapu System and Caste System of Ancient Hawai'i
  281. Maori Prisoners and Slaves in the Nineteenth Century
  282. Moriori - The impact of new arrivals - Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand
  283. New Zealand A to Z |Chatham Islands
  284. (1772) 20 State Tr 1; (1772) Lofft 1
  285. Paul E. Lovejoy: 'The Volume of the Atlantic Slave Trade: A Synthesis.' The Journal of African History, Vol. 23, No. 4 (1982).
  286. This Day at Law: Slavery abolished in the British Empire
  287. Indian Legislation
  288. House of Commons - International Development - Memoranda
  289. Response The 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act didn't end the vile trade
  290. Bordeaux faces its slave history
  291. A Brief History of Dessalines from 1825 Missionary Journal
  292. The Parliamentary Debates from the Year 1803 to the Present Time, Published by s.n., 1816 Volume 32. p. 200
  293. UN Chronicle |Slavery in the Twenty-First Century
  294. BBC Millions 'forced into slavery'
  295. Slavery: Modern Slavery: Debt Bondage & Slave Exploitation
  296. The Skin Trade - TIME

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