Politics in Minutes (2016)

Slavery

The history of slavery is as long as that of empires. It was common in all the civilizations of the ancient world, providing a cheap labour force generally consisting of people taken from a conquered nation. With the advent of the great trading empires in the 15th century, however, the nature of slavery changed fundamentally, as slaves became increasingly considered as a commodity that could be traded. This grew in importance as European empires colonized new countries and required a large labour force to supplement local workers.

The slave trade became big business, with fortunes being made by European slavers moving staggeringly large numbers of African slaves across the Atlantic to work in the cotton fields and sugar plantations of North America. The move to abolish the slave trade helped to shape liberal politics in the 19th century, but the change slavery made to the demographic of especially America and the Caribbean profoundly influenced political attitudes to race and ethnicity to the present day.

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