Slavery is the ownership of people and stems back thousands and thousands of years. While some speculate that certain graves dating back to 8000 BC in Egypt showed enslavement of a tribe, it is commonly said that slavery probably started with the invention of agriculture about 11,000 years ago. The bible often refers to slavery, and the Code of Hammurabi (1760 BC) issued death to anyone helping a slave escape.
Slavery was used in almost every ancient civilization, including Ancient Egypt, China, India, Greece, and even the Roman Empire. The reasons for slavery could be a person in debt to someone, someone being punished for a crime, prisoners of war turned slave, abandoned children, or when children are born from slaves. This illustrates the many different ways someone could become a slave.
Classical Athens in 6th and 5th centuries BC is certain to have had the largest slave population of ancient times, totaling as many as 80,000 people. This meant that somewhere around half of the population were slaves. When the Roman Republic would expand, it would enslave entire populations, which were used not for just labor but amusement as well (Example: gladiators). Slavery would continue to become a pillar of economic wealth for Rome, as well as an extremely important society practice.
In Europe during the middle ages, the slave trade would peak in the 10th century because of the Zanj rebellion. This would make African slaves being sent to the Arab world decrease. Spain and Portugal were constantly being invaded, pillaged, and people taken as slaves by Muslim invasions. An example of this would be the Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur's raid in 1189 against Lisbon, Portugal. He would take 3,000 women and child captives, while one of his governors took 3,000 Christian slaves in Silves Portugal in 1191.
In Britain, slavery went well beyond the fall of Rome, constantly being fed by the need to fight off Viking invasions. At its peak, 10% of Britain's population were slaves, and the Roman Catholic Church approved of it at the time, only prohibiting Christian slaves to be transported to non-Christian slaves. The Church even went so far as to say any non-believers could be made perpetual slaves. It wouldn't be until 1537 when Pope Paul III would forbid enslavement of the Native Americans. The church made an official stance against slavery.
Slavery in the Americas started from the Spanish invasions, and would not let up for over 300 years. Portugal and Spain, two of the earliest colonizers of the Americas, would create many slave shops in their colonies, and in 1519 Hernán Cortés would bring Mexico's first Afro-Mexican (Mexicans with African heritage) slaves. Spain wanted to establish itself as a powerful empire, and as such the natives that they conquered would be used as slaves frequently.
It is estimated that 12 million Africans were brought to the Americas from the 1500s to the 1800s. It is estimated that 645,000 of these went to what is now the United States of America. This is easily plausible because by 1750, slavery was legal in the original 13 British colonies. As the years went by however, most civilized countries would drop slavery and only allow indentured servants, people who would have to work off their debt as payment for their trip to America. The United States would be one of the last countries to end slavery.
Slavery was one of the causes of the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States, and following the North's victory in the war, slavery was finally abolished in America.
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