How was slavery institutionalized


Michael Zeuske

To person

Dr. phil., born 1952; Professor of Iberian and Latin American History at the University of Cologne, Global South Studies Center (GSSC), Universit√§tsstrasse 22, 50937 Cologne. [email protected]

Slavery - violence by people over other people's bodies, forced work, restricted mobility and degradation of status - was and is a global phenomenon to this day, although legal ownership is banned across the world. [1] Slavery, or better: slavery, has not only been a part of world history from the beginning, but has often been - like war and the pursuit of wealth - a kind of engine behind dynamic developments.

It is controversial among historians and archaeologists when the global historical phenomenon began: the historian Joseph Miller is of the opinion that early slavery dates back to around 20,000 BC (late Paleolithic). [2] I think that the first slavery went hand in hand with the Neolithic, i.e. the development of Neolithic agriculture, formerly fortified settlements and livestock farming (10th to 6th millennium BC). These are extrapolated hypotheses that can be proven archaeologically and historically, if at all, in special forms of slavery (victim slavery, following into the dead). The first tangible evidence of certain slavery is related to the emergence of writing and the formation of early city-states and empires. The slave trade, which belongs to developed slavery like a twin, began in the 2nd millennium B.C.E. one - initially with raid wars (raids by lightly armed and fast warriors who were aimed at destruction, terror and kidnapping), the giving of prisoners of war to elites and the exchange of "gifts" between rulers.

If we break away from the common notion that slavery and slaves existed primarily in ancient Europe in Greece and Rome as well as in the south of the USA before the civil war, we can historicize slavery - that is, place it in history since the Neolithic and distinguish large slavery formations. I call such formations Plateaus of slavery. Slavery existed everywhere where people settled, worldwide according to the rule of thumb "the older, the more local".

The first two plateaus of slavery

The first slavery plateau in global history is that of the female slaves "without institutionalization". This means that women, girls and children (orphans, abandoned, robbed or sold children) in particular fell victim to this stage of slavery without any recognizable rules or institutions - with the exception of a lower status. The status of a slave was related to the granting of protection or acceptance into a new group (relatives group, settlement community - "household"). In return, so to speak, the newcomers had to do the most unpleasant work or be at the service of the group leaders. This plateau of female slaves "without an institution" is probably the oldest and most widespread in history. It ranged from the hypothetical beginning of slavery to at least the formation of the first territorial rule, i.e. at least to the late Neolithic and the Copper Age (around 3000 BC). And despite its apparent simplicity, it is a rather complicated story because everyone can imagine the phenomena for which this plateau of slavery can form a basis: patriarchalism, forced sex, dealing with orphaned children, concubinage (but also in a broader sense for marriage and similar rituals with which the status of aliens should be weakened). [3]

The second plateau of slavery is formed by slavery within the framework of relatives and residential groups; it is the plateau of kin or house slavery (kinship is with the English term kin designated). This plateau has been related, probably since the Bronze Age (in the Americas more like a precious metal and copper age), to increases in production in the economy and the use of new resources and technologies (agriculture, metallurgy, water management). On the other hand, it is characterized by how risks (climate, storms, droughts, floods, struggle for resources) are dealt with, which in turn led to the indebtedness of farmers and conflicts over resources with other groups. In addition, with the development of structured dominions (mostly as chiefdoms armed conflicts generally increased. In these rulers war elites formed who took other people prisoner and at the same time were interested in increasing their status through many followers and dependent people.

This is where the history of slavery becomes more complicated, mainly because different forms of slavery came into play and the organized prisoner of war and slave trade began. The basic structures of this plateau are forms of "inner" slavery - still predominantly of women, girls and children, but now also of indebted men and groups (debts are often measured in seeds, food or animals; coinage has only existed since around 600 BC). Because of the conflicts and raids or disputes between sedentary and nomadic groups, "external" slavery of men was added (initially mostly as shepherds or porters in troops of warriors). Enslavement of men who were previously warriors or soldiers was and is not easy and always dangerous. There was more and more visible violence. This led to the development of special forms such as the collective slavery of defeated people in a certain territory or of village communities, victim slavery (which may already be as old as the first plateau, but was now more often used to demonstrate power), raid slavery of professional warriors in which the defeated and enslaved warriors were incorporated with very low status, as well as various types of elite slavery (such as sworn warriors' associations that should be loyal to the leader until death, or groups of "high quality" young women who had to serve the leaders as concubines).

All but the collective slavery have one thing in common: Their location is the "house", which can also be a palace or temple complex. The status of the enslaved is measured by the kinship rank: "Inner" female slaves have a weak or poor kinship who can no longer protect them or who have actively given them away (sold); "Outer" slaves have no relationship at all within the enslavement group. [4] With this and in connection with war defeats, which were often subsequently declared as willed by God, two rules developed that went up to the formal end of slavery (in the Americas and Europe as well as in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century; in Africa, Asia, Arabia, Australia in the 20th century) have shaped the history of slavery: On the one hand, enslavement was accompanied by an internal degradation of status, that is, the enslaved person had the lowest honor (if any "honor") and very few rights in the respective group, on the other hand, an external status degradation. People who came into a group after war defeats or raids had no rights at all. The sociologist Orlando Patterson has this status social death and was not entirely wrong, despite the many criticisms this term has brought him. [5]