Precapitalist slavery

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at
Sun Mar 4 11:57:47 MST 2001

On Sun, 04 Mar 2001 13:29:00 -0500 Louis Proyect <lnp3 at> writes:
> NY Times Book Review, March 4, 2001
> Human Cargo
> A study of the little-known slave trade in the Islamic world.
> All this will seem strange to many American eyes. Apparently the
> reason
> monarchs made so many slaves high officials was that they were
> dependably
> loyal -- more so than members of rival clans or leaders with local
> constituencies. But how can you be loyal to someone who has deprived
> you of
> your freedom? This is a mystery Segal does not explore.

All this would seem to make Islamic slavery much more like
the slavery that prevailed in ancient Greece & Rome than
the sort of slavery that existed in the US.  Under the Roman
Empire, it was common practice to staff governmental
bureaucracies with educated slaves.  And such slaves could
and often did attain high-level positions in the government.
High strata slaves were often well positioned to become
significant property owners in their own right, which often
included their own slaves. From the time of the Emperor
Claudius on, it became common
practice for emperors to rely upon educated freedmen as
their personal and political advisors.  And unlike
the antebellum South in the US, manumission seems
to have been a fairly common and accepted practice of
the classical world.

Jim F.

> Full review:
> Louis Proyect
> Marxism mailing list:

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