To historians, who inevitably take the long view, the modern relationship between Europe and Africa is merely the current chapter in an enormous book. For much of the period from the 15th century till now, during which Europeans and Africans have been connected through trade, empire and migration, both forced and voluntary, Europe has viewed the people of Africa through the distorting veil of racism and racial theory.
In the British case much of the jumble of stereotypes, pseudo-science and wild conjecture that coalesced to form racism arose from the political battles fought over the slave trade and slavery, during the last decades of the 18th century and the first decades of the 19th. The men who set out to defend slavery assembled a vast arsenal of new claims and old theories about black people, which they then codified, refined and disseminated through books, pamphlets, cartoons and speeches. That propaganda campaign, along with the institution of British slavery itself, was ultimately defeated by the moral energy of the abolitionist campaign, and by the determination of the slaves of the Caribbean to resist their enslavement, yet the ideas about the nature of African peoples and the cultures of Africa that had been marshalled by the pro-slavery lobby lived on.
Some, in more subtle forms, are still with us today. Recent debates about slavery in Britain and the United States have understandably focused on the toxic legacies those systems bequeathed to the black peoples of the Caribbean and the US, the descendants of the slaves. What is sometimes overlooked is that the racial ideas of the pro-slavery lobby were also aimed at Africans in their home continent.
The book that, arguably, did the most to disseminate racial ideas about Africans was written by a man who never set foot on African soil. In addition, slaves were often mixed with free labour as employers used whatever human resources were available and necessary to get a job done. If one could not find enough slaves or skills were needed which only paid labour could provide, then labourers and slaves would work together.
In the agricultural sector such a mix of labour was particularly common as the work was seasonal so that at harvest time paid labour was brought in to supplement the slave staff because to maintain such an extended work force year-round was not economically viable. Slaves, then, were employed by private individuals or the state and used in agriculture especially the grain, vine and olive sectors , in mines especially for gold and silver , manufacturing industries, transportation, education where they brought their specialist knowledge of such topics as philosophy and medicine to the Roman world , the military principally as baggage porters and camp assistants , the service industries from food to accounting , in the private home, in the construction industry, on road-building projects, in public baths, and even to perform tasks in certain cult rituals.
The lot of agricultural slaves vincti was probably one of the worst as they were usually housed in barrack buildings ergastula in poor, prison-like conditions and often kept in chains. Pompeii has revealed such work gangs chained together in death as they were in life. Other skeletal remains from Pompeii have also revealed the chronic arthritis and distortion of limbs that could only have been produced by extreme overwork and malnutrition. There was, at least for a small minority, the possibility of a slave achieving freedom to become a freedman or woman, and this incentive was fully exploited by slave owners.
That manumission occurred is attested by the many ancient references, both in literature and art, to the presence of freed slaves. Freedom could be granted by the owner but in most cases was actually bought by the slaves themselves, allowing the owner to replenish his workforce.
Freedom could be absolute or might be limited and include certain obligations to the former owner such as inheritance rights or the payment of a portion statuliber of their earned assets peculium. The freed slave often took the first two names of their former master, illustrative that manumission was rare, as the family name held great importance in Roman society so that only the most trusted individual would be allowed to 'wear' it.
Children of a freed woman would not have any limits on their rights although social status might be affected in terms of reputation. Also, former slaves could become citizens especially from the Augustan period and even become slave owners themselves. One famous example was the freedman C. Caecilius Isidorus who would eventually own over 4, slaves. This prize of freedom and integration back into society was also used by owners and authority to convince slaves of the benefits of working hard and obediently.
There is some evidence that slaves were better treated in the Imperial period as fewer wars resulted in slaves being in less ready supply and, therefore, they increased in value and it was recognised that harsh treatment was counter-productive so that there were even laws which provided against excessively cruel owners.
However, in practical terms, one can imagine, that owners were at liberty to treat their property as they thought best and the only real constraint was the desire to maintain the value of the asset and not provoke a drastic and collective reaction from those enslaved. Indeed, treatises were written advising the best methods of management regarding slaves - what food and clothing was best, which were the most efficient methods of motivation e. Sometimes, however, these careful plans and strategies proved ineffective and slaves could turn against their owners.
Undoubtedly, the most famous examples of such uprisings were those led by Eunus in Sicily in BCE and Spartacus in southern Italy in 73 BCE but slaves could protest against their lot in life in much more subtle ways such as working more slowly, stealing, truancy, and sabotage.
We have no records from the viewpoint of slaves themselves but it is not difficult to imagine that, faced with the personal risks to oneself and the relations one might have developed, there was not much a slave could do to change their lot other than hope that one day freedom could be legitimately won. The case of Spartacus, then, was an unusual but spectacular one. It was not an attempt to overthrow the entire system of slavery but rather the actions of a disaffected group willing to take the risk to fight for their own freedom.
Spartacus was a Thracian gladiator who had served in the Roman army and he became the leader of a slave rebellion beginning at the gladiator school of Capua. Supplementing their numbers with slaves from the surrounding countryside and even some free labourers an army was assembled which numbered between 70, and , Amazingly, the slave army successively defeated two Roman armies in 73 BCE. It may have been Spartacus' intention to disperse at this point but with his commanders preferring to continue to ravage Italy, he once more moved south.
More victories followed but, let down by pirates who had promised him transportation to Sicily, the rebellion was finally crushed by Marcus Licinius Crassus at Lucania in 71 BCE. Spartacus fell in the battle and the survivors, of them, were crucified in a forceful message to all Roman slaves that any chance of winning freedom through violence was futile.
The entire Roman state and cultural apparatus was, then, built on the exploitation of one part of the population to provide for the other part. Regarded as no more than a commodity, any good treatment a slave received was largely only to preserve their value as a worker and as an asset in the case of future sale. No doubt, some slave owners were more generous than others and there was, in a few cases, the possibility of earning one's freedom but the harsh day-to-day reality of the vast majority of Roman slaves was certainly an unenviable one.
Editorial Review This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication. It's just in, in, in the tendency for people to see existing power relationships as having some sort of natural quality to them. Slavery had become so widespread that to many whites it seemed the natural state for black people. But when Jefferson turned his attention to Indians in Notes, what appeared natural about them was their status as free people, brave warriors protecting their lands.
This led Jefferson to suspect that Indians were not much different from Europeans. Jefferson felt that, among many people of that time, felt that the Indians were good human material, and the problem with them was not race but culture, that the Indians were savages but they could be civilized.
But when Jefferson wrote about the Indians he had little direct contact with them. Most Virginia tribes had been pushed west or killed off by war and European diseases. They thought of Indians as savages who were trying to destroy peaceful settlers coming in, and thought they should be driven out or exterminated. As a people, we were hunters, as, you know, as anthropologists would describe us as hunters and gatherers.
We saw ourselves as equal people.
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We were free people. We had always been free people. Within a decade of Independence, wars with frontier tribes like the Shawnee, Miami, Kickapoo and others threatened the stability of the young nation. Civilization included Christian religion; it included an English education; and commercial agriculture. If you can convert Indians from hunters into farmers, if you could confine them to a small acreage, then you would have all this surplus land, which could be opened to white settlement. It was ultimately to make us farmers, ah, to live like the colonists lived.
The civilization policy was to make us brown, white men. He wrote of "deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites" and of "physical and moral differences" separating the groups. HORSMAN : Jefferson seems to have thought about it as a Virginia plantation owner who has been brought up amongst slaves, and who at his heart of heart, I would suppose, finds it difficult to conceive of those slaves are fully his equal.
NARRATOR: It was through those eyes that the man who wrote the nation's credo "all men are created equal" put forth as a "suspicion only" that "the blacks are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.
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Ah, we would say in our own language Jefferson didn't have this language , we would say, "genetic. And of course, if that's the question the scientist asks, then that's the question the scientist will answer. HORTON : And so from that moment on, you start to build a case that is specifically geared to tell the world that these people are different.
Theories of race are used to do that. Science and slavery would help focus the nation's attention on the nature of black people. Land would propel native Americans into the racial spotlight. The land was not empty. One did overrun Indians. And some Indian nations, like the Cherokee, still owned massive tracts of land in the southeast.
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Planters needed land on which to grow tobacco, to grow cotton, to grow other staple crops. Indians occupied that land. Indians owned that land. And consequently, ah, Indians were under constant pressure for that land. NARRATOR: In response to this pressure and defeats on the battlefield, some tribes like the Cherokee embraced the government's civilization policy first begun in the s. They would put to the test Jefferson's words: "We shall all be Americans.
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Your blood will run in our veins and will spread with us over this great continent. The Cherokees were able very quickly to transform, at least on a superficial level, their culture. They made many accomplishments that led their supporters to proclaim them to be "civilized" Indians. By they had signed treaties ceding over ninety percent of their land to the United States. With the civilization policy, many Cherokees had switched from being hunters to farmers, some even ran plantations and owned slaves.
Their children learned Christian religion and English at mission-run schools. A Cherokee alphabet was created, and in the s, the Cherokee nation began publishing a bilingual newspaper.