< Slavery

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Should this page also include a reference to gender/sexual slavery? -- Cayzle

Was there any Asian slavery historically?

In China, slavery did exist but take a much milder form. One of my aunt (age 75 as of 2001) is not related to us by blood. She was sold to my grandma when she was a few years old. Her mother couldn't afford to raise her, so the deal worked like a paid adoption with the understanding that the child would work like a slave instead of part of the family. She was a servant to my mom's family. My grandma didn't treat her like a slave though she had to do all the dirty work in the house. She grew up with my mother and they treat each other like sisters. Milage varies. Some child slaves did get abuse in inhumane way. But as soon as the Communist government took over, no one dared to admit to be a slave owner. So there was not real legal binding. But throughout Chinese history, rich people bought servants, they didn't just hire them. However, the slaves could buy back their freedom according to the original sales contract.
Before the turn of the century, the poor people in the area of Taisan (southern China) sold themselves as slaves. The money went to their family in Taisan while the men were shipped to the America to build railroads, do laundry, dig gold mine etc. Nowadays, most Chinatowns in the US are populated by Taisan people. Many are descendents of slaves.

I honestly don't know, so I didn't bother to put it in. Thanks for adding 'Africa', by the way. There's something approximating western serfdom in China in some periods, but serfdom has to be distinguished from chattel slavery, too. --MichaelTinkler

Arguably, there is plenty of slave labor going on right now in labor camps in China staffed by political dissidents...of course, the Chinese would disagree with the description, though. --LMS

Yep. I guess we need a division for 'state socialism.' The broad definitions of slavery around lately all concentrate on the loss of control over work rather than chattel, and China would certainly qualify under that heading. --MichaelTinkler

How are we going to differentiate African Islamic slavery from African slavery. Currently there is nothing under Islamic slavery heading but under African slavery there is a lot about Islamic slavery. ---rmhermen

so far it doesn't seem out of line to me with an Africa entry - it's mainly sub-Saharan (Egypt the only exception) or treating Africa as a source for slaves. I for one know just enough about slavery in Islam and the nasty controversies it brings up to stay away from writing that part of the entry!

From the Mediterranean: Undoubtedly a majority of slaves were condemned to agricultural labor and lived hard lives. This seems to refer to the Roman latifundia, but from what I know, Greek slaves tended to be urban, with poorer citizens tilling the lands themselves outside of Sparta. Being a slave is never fun, especially if you happen to be female, yet again I don't think the treatment was that much worse than slaves received in America (relative to the well-being of the average citizen) and that did not seem to merit a comment. The strong exception to this were those slaves sentenced to work in mines, who in Greece and indeed all the Mediterranean and ancient world pretty much had to be worked to death in order to make mining profitable.

I guess I was inserting the 'hard life' line to avert criticism that by talking about manumission I was glossing over the lot of the slave. Manumission was a promise that never came for a majority. On the subject of Rural slavery, Greek small farming depended on slavery as well, though admittedly on a smaller scale than latifundia. In fact, I shudder to suggest it, but American slaveholding was one of the few that came even close to successful internal re-supply rather than depending on debt-slavery and foreign war to keep restocking the system. Slave smuggling existed in the 1830s-50s, but it was relatively minor, and the number of slaves were not falling. Lots of economic arguments about social change in the ancient world depend on boom&bust cycles of slave supply. --MichaelTinkler

To my knowledge, there really isn't any religious or cultural group that hasn't been slaves to someone at some point, but I'm not too sure. --Jzcool