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‘N’ everywhere else too

Yet slavery was once widespread in Ethiopia.

One of those little weirdnesses of modern life is how absolutely responsible everyone is making the English and yet slavery in England was abolished in 1066 or soon after.

Something very akin to slavery – inheritable for example – still existed in certain Scottish coal mines:

Presented at Annual General Meeting of the Federated Institution of Mining Engineers, 14 September 1897

It is not necessary that the records of the dim and distant past be searched in order to find a condition of things answering to the title of this paper. Not a hundred years ago, a system of servitude still existed in Scotland, sanctioned by the practice of two centuries, by virtue of which colliers and their families were fixed to the soil almost as effectually as if they had been bought in the slave-market of New Orleans or born in the hut of a negro on some Virginian plantation.

It is matter for surprise that such an institution should have been allowed to exist in Scotland, and our surprise is not lessened when on enquiry it appears that it was not a relic of the social system of the Middle Ages, but was the result of express enactment by the Scottish Parliament.

Slavery was abolished in 1905 in Mali. And again in 1984 I think. And there’s an ongoing rebellion against slavery today, one irruption being in 2012.

But, you know, the English.

24 thoughts on “‘N’ everywhere else too”

  1. As soon as we figured out how to grow crops instead of follow herds of animals for our food, slavery was baked into the civilisation cake.

    Pre-industrial agriculture is very labour intensive and therefore very unproductive. No wonder ancient people thought slavery was a natural state of affairs: it was. Simply can’t get from the absolute poverty of living free and naked in the trees, to a post-industrial technological society with digital watches, without a lot of coercion.

    The alternative to slavery was murdering every tribe you defeated in battle (or being murdered or enslaved yourself). That happened a lot, too. But we generally believe not murdering people is nicer than murdering them.

    So perhaps we should be thankful that a lot of olden days people were greedy enough and kind enough to put people who fell under their power to work instead of just slaughtering them. Slavery likely saved more lives than any other human institution until Christianity came along.

    They deserve a statue, at least.

  2. But there’s no chance whatsoever of getting reparations from the descendants of all those black and arab slavers Tim, so………

  3. ‘They deserve a statue, at least.’

    Perhaps a statue to those heroic coal miners as well, Steve. For providing the fuel to eliminate all that horrid hard work.

  4. Look at what they are doing in San Francisco and California as a whole – States that never knew slavery!

    https://amgreatness.com/2023/01/17/san-francisco-proposes-giving-up-to-5-million-in-reparations-to-each-black-resident/

    “the draft of the city’s 2022 plan would require recipients to be 18 or older, to have identified their race as black or African-American for the past 10 years on official documents, and to meet two or more additional qualifications; the possible qualifications include either being incarcerated on drug-related charges, or having some sort of connection to slavery.”

  5. “Pre-industrial agriculture is very labour intensive and therefore very unproductive. No wonder ancient people thought slavery was a natural state of affairs: it was. Simply can’t get from the absolute poverty of living free and naked in the trees, to a post-industrial technological society with digital watches, without a lot of coercion.”

    The thing is, how much coercion was there, really? I’ve come to a conclusion that a lot of history is just hard to figure out. You have distorted writing, often about the worst cases, then fictionalised a bit, and then it gets viewed through the lens of people for whom owning a PS4 is poverty.

    Like if you’re a cotton-picking slave, how much better off would you be if you ran away? Slaves didn’t earn any money, but you got accommodation and food. How much did free cotton-picking men earn, and how much was left after accommodation and food? I’m going to suggest they weren’t really any better off. And that people who ran away from plantations were more about doing something other than cotton-picking, and that didn’t really become an option until the last few decades of US slavery.

  6. Diogenes,
    They’re loons. I’d bet that the conditions will be so loose that recent African immigrants would be able to qualify.

  7. What about immigrants from Barbados KyleT? But the descendants of the ones that Ollie Cromwell shipped there won’t qualify, since they were white.

  8. “the draft of the city’s 2022 plan would require recipients to be 18 or older, to have identified their race as black or African-American for the past 10 years on official documents, and to meet two or more additional qualifications; the possible qualifications include either being incarcerated on drug-related charges, or having some sort of connection to slavery.”

    I don’t know if Elon has ever been incarcerated, but it’s well known he likes a toke or two.

  9. I found the Scottish one a shocker when I learned about it. True it doesn’t seem to have worked well: historians have found (many?) cases of mining families pissing off from one mine to work for a different mine owner without permission. But the fact that it even existed, and not merely by tradition at that … urgh!

    On the other hand, I do argue that Abolition was a result of a Religious Awakening and that the effects of such things last for pretty variable periods. Maybe parts of the world will see slavery again quite soon. Indeed, are the Uighurs locked up in China effectively slaves? Dunno.

  10. Dearieme, slavery was solidly defended by Christianity for centuries, just look at Exodus 21. And Jesus wasn’t bothered by it either….

  11. BoM4 – I think the coercion came in with the regular beatings, manacles, armed guards and laws against escaping. You’re right that, in most places and in most times, there wasn’t much for a slave to escape to.

    Of course, there’s slavery and then there’s slavery. Tim has expanded on this topic by talking about slavery in the sugar trade; I’m still angry and disgusted at how the Spartiates treated the Helots.

    Fucking two-king Laconic arseholes. Xerxes did nothing wrong.

  12. The Other Bloke in Italy

    I cannot name the cases, but there were two court actions, one in England in the seventeenth century, and another Scottish case in the eighteenth, which reaffirmed that in the British Isles, slavery was unlawful.

    Like dearieme, I am taken aback by this report.

  13. OBI: the English one was the Somerset Case (late 18th century). Publicity about the case led to a black servant, Joseph Knight, in Scotland going to court to prove that he wasn’t a slave: he won too.

  14. “it was not a relic of the social system of the Middle Ages, but was the result of express enactment by the Scottish Parliament.”

    Nonononono! That’s unpossible! Scoooaaaaatlaaaand!

  15. Exodus 21 is wierd. All the English translations I’ve just checked talk about “buying a servant”, but you don’t *buy* servants, you *employ* them; and all the discussion about “buying” a servant relates to ownership rights that would pertain to a slave not a servant.

  16. “the Somerset Case”

    This really pissed me off in an episode of Dr Who. The Doc and Bill (black woman) were in early 19th century England. Bill says: “shouldn’t I be careful? Y’know, slavery?” A *PERFECT* point for the writers to make the point that England had not had slavery for 800 years, yet was *COMPLETELY* ignored, and left hanging almost instructing the viewers that slavery existed in 1814 London.

  17. . . . slavery was solidly defended by Christianity for centuries . . .

    Yes, but that doesn’t rule out dearieme’s suggestion of religious awakening as the driver of abolition. The awakening just wasn’t traditional Christianity.

    The early Christians didn’t stop the slaughter of the Roman arena / games either (despite their experience of being part of the act). It was the invading Barbarians that ended that lark because it offended some sense of fairness they had. What we call Western Civilisation today is the result of a long percolation of Christianity with the mores of Romanised (primarily) Germanic tribes, in particular the peculiar social stresses and resolutions of Normanised Britain.

    We’re a funny lot, and bizarrely felt strongly that the wogs should be free when they accepted our generous colonial proselytizing. But our real cleverness was the combination of inventing mechanical slaves and making every productive person a part-time slave by way of tax. We’re supposed to be replacing the tax form with the mechanical, but that doesn’t seem to be working out. Time for another religious awakening?

  18. PJF – Time for another religious awakening?

    I think it’s the only thing that might realistically save us, in every sense.

  19. I know you know I was being ironic, Steve.

    Truth is we’re having a religious awakening (woke climate covidiots, etc). Not much fun when you’re not onboard the crazy, are they?

  20. @Diogenes – “to have identified their race as black or African-American”

    Giving stuff to people based on their race?? That’s blatant racism.

  21. @Steve et al
    I disagree that agriculture begat slavery, except in a limited sense.
    Pastoralism / nomadism puts severe restraints on childbearing, as it is difficult to move the tent, the flock, the fire etc with more than one baby. Once the child can walk on his own then he becomes a potential asset to the tribe. But keeping the tribe alive as an ethnic unit requires warriors. Other tribes may have more. Settled farmers may have three times the fertility of nomads.

    So there was a lot of kidnapping (literally of children, not just goats). Get them young enough and as the Jesuits say, they’re yours for life. The captives may have been fully integrated in a egalitarian but most (in central Asia and America) remained slaves for life.

    However, there’s a fascinating book, “The Unredeemed Captive” that tells the story of some Yankee children from upstate New York who were captured in an Indian raid. Despite diplomatic efforts by the French and the British who ransomed them, on their return to “civilisation” they decided they preferred their adoptive tribe and escaped to the woods again.

  22. There’s a few stories of the native Americans kidnapping kids and raising them as part of the tribe which would suggest it was a well established tradition before the Europeans turned up

    A friend of mine was quite surprised to find out the local First Nations had a long history wars and raids. I was told by a guide on a canoe tour that the reason local paddles had a design on one side and were plain or just had something generic on the other was that if you were visiting/trading you were happy to display where you were from, if raiding or up to something unfriendly then flipping the paddle gave you anonymity. That being embedded in culture suggests to me that conflict was pretty common.

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