ED-This is the second part of a two-part series by Sonja J Porter. The first part can be read here on UkipDaily’
To hear some people talk, you might think that slavery did not exist in the history of the world before the coming of the British Empire. Complete nonsense and brain-washing. Every Kingdom and Empire which ever existed used slaves of some kind.
Over thousands of years, many such lands have appeared and vanished in every part of the globe, far too many to write about in one small article so some might well be omitted for brevity’s sake.
Slavery is, in the strictest sense of the term, any system which allows individuals to own, buy and sell other individuals as items of property. In India, Manu the Lawgiver, listed seven different kinds of slaves in his Hindu writings of about 1000 BCE and in the earliest records, such as the Mesopotamian Code of Hammurabi (c.1860 BCE), slavery was referred to as an already established institution and it is certainly thought that those who built the Pyramids in Egypt some 4000 years ago were slaves and not free. Both the Empires of Greece and Rome were built with slave labour.
Slaves came from various sources: they could be captured during wars, enslaved during occupation of their country or be hunted for trade. They might be criminals, abandoned children or families who gave themselves as slaves during hard times in return for food and shelter. Or they might be the children of slaves, who continued to be owned by the heir of their master.
But the term ‘slaves’ has many meanings. It can range from being de facto members of a Jewish household, to debt bondage where labour was provided by the debtor and which could be spread across generations, to the forced labour involving the harsh treatment and killing of slaves accepted as normal across many lands and throughout many centuries.
This is the type of slavery referred when people talk of the Transatlantic Slave Trade between Africa and the Americas in the 15th to 19th centuries. As we know, this was carried out by the Western European Empires of Spain, Portugal, France, Holland and notably by Britain, especially after 1600. Slavery then became a legal institution in all of the 13 American Colonies and later in Canada. Lesser known is that during the late 19thcentury, even Belgium instituted slavery in Africa when King Leopold II is believed to have had more than 10 million people killed on his ‘private estate’ of the Belgian Congo.
However, slaves to carry out all this forced labour, had to come from somewhere. They had to have been bought before being sold and shipped to the Americas by the Spanish, Portuguese, British and other nations. And that ‘somewhere’ it has to be said, was usually from both North and sub-Saharan Africa, no matter how ‘delicate’ a subject this is. Long before the start of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, slavery was already a common practice among sub-Saharan Africans, and once the Trade began, the Chieftains continued to barter their slaves to the European buyers as well as to Muslim traders from the Arab and Ottoman Empires.
The West has an almost obsessive preoccupation with the European trade in African slaves and it has become politically-incorrect to admit that, shortly after the rise of Islam in the seventh century, Muslim traders began to take equally large numbers of men, women and children not only from Africa but also from Europe — including the southern shores of England — where thousands of white Christians were seized every year to work as galley slaves, labourers and concubines.
But during the first millennia of the modern era, Northern Europe had its own slave culture, including here in Anglo-Saxon England. After the Norman Conquest this became the lesser ‘serfdom’ where a peasant was not owned but would mainly work for his master and still did not have the freedom to travel or marry without permission. The Magna Carta, signed in 1215, contained the clause commonly known as ‘Habeas Corpus’ which would form the basis of law against slavery in English common law and finally, in 1574, a law was passed which banned serfdom. In a court case of 1772 it was then decided that the condition of slavery did not exist under English law within England itself.
Over the Millennia, slavery has been outlawed by various rulers in their lands although it usually returned in one form or another. Finally, after many years of lobbying by the Abolitionist Movement, led primarily by William Wilberforce, the British Parliament voted by the Slave Trade Act of 1807 to make such trade illegal anywhere within its Empire. Between 1808 and 1860 the West Africa Squadron of the British Navy seized approximately 1,600 slave ships and freed the 150,000 Africans who were aboard.
In 1808 the importation and exportation of slaves was made a crime in the United States. Following the American Civil War, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and by 1867 all slavery and also the ‘peonage’ of the Native Americans, was abolished in the United States.
During the 19th century, slavery was gradually banned throughout the West and during the 20th century this was officially extended to the rest of the world. Officially…
Unfortunately, with greater populations and easier transport, what is now termed ‘Modern-Day Slavery’ is trickling across the world and becoming wide-spread.
According to the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation (ILO) some 21 million people worldwide are currently being coerced into working against their will, either as labourers or prostitutes, under the threat of some sort of punishment. The global newspaper, ‘India Real Time’, believes that there are more than 18 million people living in slavery in India alone at this time; the ‘Islamic State’ has enslaved the Yazidi nationals, particularly the women; in Africa forced labour, forced prostitution and a child sex trade are flourishing.
With refugees from recent wars in the Middle East looking for sanctuary and economic migrants fleeing from various countries in Africa, the practice of human trafficking is rapidly growing both into Britain and, due to the open borders of the European Union, throughout the western part of the Continent.
This has become such a concern here in Britain that Parliament passed the Modern Slavery Act, one of the first in the world, in 2015 to specifically address slavery and trafficking in the 21st century.
However, unless our country can implement the result of last year’s Referendum, withdraw from the European Union and thereby close its borders to all illegal immigrants, this trafficking and the difficulty in controlling modern day slavery here in Britain will continue.