Throughout history, slavery has played a very prominent role in shaping the world's societies and economies. Across three time periods in particular, slavery throughout the world has notable similarities and differences in areas such as the status of slavery, the way slavery influenced society, and the motivation for a civilization to practice slavery. These time periods are the Renaissance (1300-1650), the Industrial Revolution (1700-1900), and World Wars I and II (1914-1945).
The time period known today as the Renaissance was, as its name means, a “rebirth” of Greco-Roman values. It was a reaction against the Dark Ages and stood in stark contrast to the medieval time period before it. The practice of slavery was no exception. Whereas slavery had fizzled out during the Dark Ages, it was instituted again during the Renaissance. Slavery in the Renaissance began in Spain, and for a while the Spanish played the primary part in the slave market. Soon, though, slavery spread to the other parts of Europe. This was especially true with the case of the Italian city-states in which the Renaissance boomed. As the Renaissance grew in Italy and as the city-states expanded, slavery became more and more widespread until Italy became a main user of slaves (Hooker).
In contrast to slavery in the later periods of the Industrial Revolution and the two World Wars which is explained later in this essay, slavery in the Renaissance was not solely based on race, but mostly religion (at least in Europe; another type of slavery was practiced in America during the Renaissance, as explained later). Europe and Africa at that time was divided between Christians and Muslims, and so slavery in nations dominated by either religion was based on captured people from the other religion. In other words, in the Renaissance, Christians mostly enslaved Muslims and Muslims mostly enslaved Christians. In the case of the Italian Renaissance, Muslims slaves came from “Spain, North Africa, Crete, the Balkans, and the Ottoman Empire” (Hooker).
The vast majority of slaves at the beginning of the Renaissance were white (Hooker). But as the Renaissance progressed, black slaves began to be used more and more widely. In the beginning of the Renaissance, these African slaves were acquired through Arabs in North Africa, who also held them as slaves. When the Portuguese started exploring the African coast, they participated in a black slave market, shipping slaves to the Americas and back to Europe (Guild). El Mina was the first slave trading post set up by the Portuguese on the West Coast (“Gold Coast”) of Africa (Guild). Thanks to enslaved Africans, the Portuguese were especially successful in their plantations in the islands off the west coast of Africa known as the Cape Verde, where they transported many of the Africans they enslaved to work in plantations there (Gascoigne).
While most slaves in the Industrial Revolution did hard labor in fields, most slaves in the Renaissance were domestic slaves. This means that they did work in the home, doing duties for their masters around the house. Rich people in the cities almost always had one or more slaves. Instead of the brutal, inhumane treatment of slaves common in the Industrial Revolution, slave-owners during the Renaissance commonly integrated their slaves into the family. In both the Industrial Revolution and the Renaissance, masters claimed all rights for their slaves; they did with them what they willed. Therefore, there arises the similarity between all three time periods in that commonly the slaves were used as sex slaves, although sex slaves in the World Wars were used mostly just for sex, not for hard labor. When masters in the Renaissance had an illegitimate child with a slave, the child was not a slave but was free (Hooker). However, when a child was born to a slave and its master in the Industrial Revolution, the child became a slave like its mother (“Master-Slave…). While...
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