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Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of…

Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (2006)

by David Brion Davis

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My favorite arguments were near the end--the first a thoughtful analysis on whether Britain's early abolition of the slave trade was an example of a society 'doing the right thing' even if it is against its own best interest, and the second a meditation on Lincoln's radical thought transformation about slavery, which gave me renewed understanding of just how radical the Emancipation Proclamation was. I'm glad to have read this book. ( )
  poingu | Jan 29, 2015 |
A great work of history and essential to anyone wishing to understand slavery in the New World and its effects on world history. ( )
  GeoKaras | Oct 10, 2011 |
A history of slavery in the Western hemisphere, from the African and Mediterranean antecedents, including Biblical arguments, to abolition, including the Haitian revolution (the only successful slave revolt) and the American Civil War. Davis covers a lot of ground, including the fear of slave rebellions in the US and the simultaneous denigration of African-Americans because they didn’t, largely, engage in armed insurrection, thus suggesting to even many antislavery whites that they were just not as brave as whites, because those whites couldn’t see the structural barriers in place (slave:free ratios, among other things, were very different in Haiti) or the other accommodations and rebellions in which slaves engaged. He emphasizes that abolition was always, except in the Civil War, accompanied by compensation for slaveowners (not for slaves)—even Haiti ultimately agreed to ruinous compensation for dispossessed owners in order to restore international trade. Meanwhile, the shift from production of valuable sugarcane to the non-money-generating food crops that accompanied the transition to freedom convinced many contemporary whites that freedom had been a disaster in Haiti. The emphasis on the overall Atlantic context was very informative for me. ( )
  rivkat | Jun 13, 2011 |
An important book, even a great one. Anyone with any interest in this subject (and that should include anyone who lives in the United States) should read this book. This book has as its kernel a series of lectures Brion Davis gave to high school teachers, but it is in actuality a synthesis of a lifetime of scholarship and thinking on the subject, and that shows. Although focused on the Atlantic slave trade and slavery in the new world, its breadth extends from ancient times to today, where racism lingers as slavery's ugly child. Writing a book that deals with both the horror of slavery and still remains accurate and authoritative is an achievement in itself. Brion Davis manages to explain what makes slavery so abhorrent, while avoiding sensationalism. That he also manages to demonstrate convincingly the direct link between slavery and racism is even more praiseworthy. ( )
  billiecat | Aug 3, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195140737, Hardcover)

David Brion Davis has long been recognized as the leading authority on slavery in the Western World. His books have won every major history award--including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award--and he has been universally praised for his prodigious research, his brilliant analytical skill, and his rich and powerful prose. Now, in Inhuman Bondage, Davis sums up a lifetime of insight in what Stanley L. Engerman calls "a monumental and magisterial book, the essential work on New World slavery for several decades to come."

Davis begins with the dramatic Amistad case, which vividly highlights the international character of the Atlantic slave trade and the roles of the American judiciary, the presidency, the media, and of both black and white abolitionists. The heart of the book looks at slavery in the American South, describing black slaveholding planters, the rise of the Cotton Kingdom, the daily life of ordinary slaves, the highly destructive internal, long-distance slave trade, the sexual exploitation of slaves, the emergence of an African-American culture, and much more. But though centered on the United States, the book offers a global perspective spanning four continents. It is the only study of American slavery that reaches back to ancient foundations (discussing the classical and biblical justifications for chattel bondage) and also traces the long evolution of anti-black racism (as in the writings of David Hume and Immanuel Kant, among many others). Equally important, it combines the subjects of slavery and abolitionism as very few books do, and it illuminates the meaning of nineteenth-century slave conspiracies and revolts, with a detailed comparison with 3 major revolts in the British Caribbean. It connects the actual life of slaves with the crucial place of slavery in American politics and stresses that slavery was integral to America's success as a nation--not a marginal enterprise.

A definitive history by a writer deeply immersed in the subject, Inhuman Bondage offers a compelling narrative that links together the profits of slavery, the pain of the enslaved, and the legacy of racism. It is the ultimate portrait of the dark side of the American dream. Yet it offers an inspiring example as well--the story of how abolitionists, barely a fringe group in the 1770s, successfully fought, in the space of a hundred years, to defeat one of human history's greatest evils.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:48 -0400)

Links the profits of slavery, the pain of the enslaved, and the legacy of racism in a history of the institution of slavery in the United States.

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