Thursday, September 15, 2016
How African Slavery Proliferated
How African Slavery Proliferated: Aside from the Atlantic slave trade and the Arab slave trade, which took slaves off the African continent, how did slavery grow and develop in Africa? Like Europe or the colonial Americas, between the 1600s and the 1800s, slavery was widespread in African societies. According to historian John Thornton, the main reason why African slavery proliferated, especially in Atlantic Africa, was because "slaves were the only form of private, revenue-producing property recognized in African law." In Europe, however, "land was the primary form of revenue-producing property." Thus, land ownership became a major factor behind slavery's growth in Europe and the colonial Americas. And as such, the master-slave relationship functioned like a landlord-tenant relationship in European legal systems. Yet it was the absence private (landed) property in African societies that helped slavery proliferate on the continent. Anthropologists have sought reasons for Africa's lack of private land ownership, and two factors seem to surface consistently. Low population densities coupled with a lack of agricultural technologies made land plentiful for much of Africa, and thus, little need to declare ownership of it.