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Questioning Slavery [James Walvin] on efycymepodor.tk *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. For the best part of three centuries the material well-being of the .
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Walvin's answer to the basic question of why slavery migrated from the Mediterranean and the Atlantic islands to the Americas leans heavily on economic forces.
Questioning Slavery | Reviews in History
In particular, he emphasises high land to labour ratios in the colonies conquered by the European powers and the relative costs of coerced and free labour. These are not new arguments, but it is useful to non-specialists have them presented in such an accessible way as Walvin does. It is important to note, however, that, while patterns of resource endowments and labour supplies may help to explain the rise of American slavery, they do not explain why those enslaved came overwhelmingly from Africa.
Walvin insists that the resort to 'servile African labour' largely reflected the 'changing costs and availability of black and white labour' p.
This argument sits uncomfortably, however, with some other other recent studies, where it is claimed that the origins of the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans may have had as much to do with ideological resistance to enslaving whites among European- and American-based slave traffickers as with the relative costs of supplying African and other labour to the Americas David Eltis, 'Europeans and the Rise and Fall of African Slavery in the Americas: If this last argument is correct, it suggests that European racial attitudes to labour helped to shape the patterns of transatlantic slavery rather than, as Walvin and others before him have tended to argue, that slavery gave rise to racism, notably during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when planters in the Americas and their allies in Europe sought to legitimise continuing enslavement of Africans in the face of growing external pressure to end the institution.
The relationship between slavery and racism is likely to remain a controversial issue.
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In discussing the conditions experienced by Africans under slavery, Walvin is at pains to emphasise the diversity of plantation regimes in British America and the variations in demographic outcomes for slaves of life in the Americas. In particular, he draws out the contrasts between island and mainland fertility rates of slaves and highlights the importance of crop types and associated labour patterns in determining the reproductive capacity of female slaves.
He is also anxious to stress that, while they were subject to the arbitrary rule and violence of their owners, slaves were, nevertheless, able to influence some aspects of their lives, notably in their domestic quarters and through the cultivation of their garden plots and resistance to loss of customary free time. How slaves rebuilt their lives and reconstituted their identities after the trauma of enslavement in Africa and forced passage to the Americas forms a central part of Walvin's story, and offers his readers perhaps some of the most revealing insights into trends in recent research on slavery.
The precise question or problem that Walvin attempts to address in each of the six chapters that he devotes to slave life on the plantations is not always fully articulated. But it is clear from his discussion that enslaved Africans themselves used every available opportunity to re-negotiate their conditions of work and to question, usually quietly and stealthily but sometimes violently, the authority of their owners.
In this respect, we are reminded that, despite obvious contrasts, there were parallels between employer-employee relations under forced and free labour regimes. African resistance to enslavement, notably in the form of rebellions, has regularly been included among the catalogue of factors that historians cite to explain the ending of slavery in the nineteenth century. British efforts to abolish the Atlantic slave trade and slavery after have, of course, been extensively discussed by historians, but why the leading and most successful slave-trading nation in became 'the world's pre-eminent abolitionist force' during the nineteenth century remains, in Walvin's words, one of the 'more perplexing questions in the history of slavery' p.
Walvin is rightly cautious in approaching this issue, but his interpretation of shifts in British attitudes towards the slave trade and slavery seems to owe little, if anything, to economic factors. Britain's abolition of its trade in slaves in was not, he argues, 'simply a question, as many have claimed, of declining slave-based fortunes Nor, he goes on to argue, was it evident that slavery would 'die a natural death' p.
For Walvin, the key to the rise of British abolitionism lay not in the economics of slavery but in social change within Britain itself, notably rising demands for reform in general and a growing appreciation of the brutality of a system that incorporated increasing numbers of Christian slaves. Knowledge of the violence with which slave rebellions in Barbados in , Demerara in , and Jamaica in were suppressed was, in Walvin's words, 'grist to the abolitionist mill' p.
Walvin's interpretation to British abolitionism may be the area of Questioning Slavery that evokes the most heated reaction. It will certainly be questioned by those who, like the late Eric Williams, tend to emphasise shifts in the fortunes of slave-based West Indian economies after the American Revolution in seeking to explain British moves against the slave trade and slavery. As with other issues relating to transatlantic slavery after , debate over the relative importance of economic and non-economic factors in ending slavery in British America will continue.
But for all students of slavery, the strength of Walvin's approach to abolitionism lies in the fact that it places the issue of the enslavement of Africans at the heart of ideological debates over property rights, labour, and political representation in Britain during the initial stages of industrialisation. Slavery was not only central to the development of Britain's first colonial empire, therefore, but concern about enslaved Africans also helped to shape the direction of political and social change in Britain after Although the vast majority of books that have Lexile measures did not change, a small subset of books required updated Lexile measures.
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