Posts Tagged ‘Pacific Islands’

Book on Slavery Around the World Up To the Present

June 23, 2020

Jeremy Black, Slavery: A New Global History (London: Constable & Robinson 2011).

One of the aspects of the contemporary debate over slavery is that, with some exceptions, it is very largely centred on western, transatlantic slavery. This is largely because the issue of slavery has been a part of the controversy over the status of Blacks in western society and the campaigns for improving their conditions and combating anti-Black racism since the abolitionist movement arose in the 18th and 19th centuries. But it ignores the crucial fact that slavery is a global phenomenon which was certainly not confined to the transatlantic slavery of the European empires. One of the arguments marshaled by the slaveowners was that slavery had existed since antiquity. Both the Romans and the ancient Greeks had possessed slaves, as had ancient Egypt. It still existed in Black Africa, the Turkish empire, the Arab states and India. Hence slavery, the slaveowners argued, was a necessary part of human civilisation, and was impossible to abolish. It was ‘philanthropic’ and ‘visionary’ to demand it.

This was partly the reason why, after the British had abolished slavery in their own empire, they moved to attack it around the world. This meant not only freeing the slaves in the West Indies and their South American colonies, but also at Cape Colony in South Africa, Sri Lanka, India, Hong Kong and further east in the new territories of Malaya, Fiji and the Pacific Islands, and Australia.  Most histories of slavery focus on transatlantic slavery. However, Jeremy Black’s book discusses it as existed around the world.

The book’s blurb concentrates on European slavery in the Americas. It runs

The story of slavery – from the ancient world to the present day

In this panoramic history, leading historian Jeremy Black explores slavery from its origins – the uprising of Spartacus and the founding of the plantations in the Indies – to its contemporary manifestations as human trafficking and bonded labour.

Black reveals how slavery served to consolidate empires and shape New World societies such as America and Brazil, and the way in which slave trading across the Atlantic changed the Western world. He assesses the controversial truth behind the complicity of Africans within the trade, which continued until the long, hard fight for abolition in the nineteenth century. Black gives voice to both the campaigners who fought for an end to slavery, and the slaves who spoke of their misery.

In this comprehensive and thoughtful account of the history of slavery, the role of slavery in the modern world is examined and Black shows that it is still widespread today in many countries.

But Black begins his introduction with the case of Hadijatou Mani, a Niger woman, who was sold into slavery at the age of 12 and subsequently beaten, raped and prosecuted for bigamy because she dared to marry a man other than her master. She successfully brought her case before the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, which ruled in her favour and fined her country. She stated that she had brought the case in order to protect her children. Slavery is officially outlawed in Niger, but the local customary courts support the custom by which the children of slaves become the property of their masters.

Black then describes how slavery was truly a global phenomenon, and the treatment of slaves at Cape Coast in Ghana resembles the treatment of Christian slaves taken by the Barbary pirates. And its history extends from the ancient world to the Nazi genocide of the Jews. He writes

The mournful, underground dungeons at Cape Coast Castle and other bases on the low, watery coastline of West Africa where African slaves were held from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries prior to shipment to the New World are potent memory of the vile cruelty of slavery, and notably of the approximately 12.5 million Africans forced into this trade and transported on about 35,000 transatlantic voyages, yet these dungeons are not alone and should not crowd out other landscapes where slavery was carried on and the slave trade conducted. Nicholas de Nicolay’s mid-sixteenth-century account of slave dealers parading their captives naked to show that they had no physical defects, and so that they could be examined as if they were horses, with particular reference to their teeth and feet, could have referred to the world of Atlantic slavery, but actually was written about Tripoli in modern Libya, where large numbers of Christians captured from Malta and Sicily by the Barbary pirates of North Africa were sold.

Indeed, the landscapes of slavery span the world, and range from the Central Asian city of Khiva, where the bustle of the slave market can still be visualized in the narrow streets, to Venice, a major entrepot for the slave trade of medieval Europe albeit not one noted by modern tourists. The range is also from Malacca in modern Malaysia, an important centre for the slave trade around the Indian Ocean, especially under the Muslim sultans but also, from 1511, under, first their Portuguese and, then, their Dutch successors, to the few remains of the murderous system of labout that was part of the Nazis’ genocidal treatment of the Jews. The variety of slavery in the past and across history stretched from the galleys of imperial Rome to slave craftsmen in Central Asian cities, such as Bukhara, and from the mines of the New World to those working in spice plantations in east Africa. Public and private, governmental and free enterprise, slavery was a means of labour and form of control. (p.2).

The book has the following chapters

  1. Pre-1500
  2. The Age of Conquest, 1500-1600
  3. The Spread of Capitalist Slavery, 1600-1700
  4. Slavery before Abolitionism, 1700-1780
  5. Revolution, Abolitionism and the Contrasting Fortunes of the Slave Trade and Slavery, 1780-1850
  6. The End of Slavery, 1830-1930?
  7. A Troubled Present, 1930-2011
  8. Legacies and Conclusions.

I feel very strongly that the global dimension of slavery and the slave trade needs to be taught, and people should be aware that it isn’t simply something that White Europeans forced on to Black Africans and other indigenous peoples. British imperialism was wrong, but the British did act to end slavery, at least officially, both within our empire and across the world. And odiously slavery is returning. After Blair’s, Sarkozy’s and Obama’s bombing of Libya, the Islamist regime in part of the country has allowed slave markets selling Black Africans to be reopened. Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, posted a video on YouTube discussing the appearance of yet more slave markets in Uganda. He pointedly asked why none of the ‘SJWs’ protesting against the racism and the historical injustice of slavery weren’t protesting about that. Benjamin is a member of the extreme right, though I would not like to accuse him personally of racism and the question is a good one. As far as I know, there are no marches of anti-racist activists loudly demanding an end to racism in countries like Uganda, Niger, Libya and elsewhere. Back in the ’90s the persistence and growth of slavery was a real, pressing issue and described in books like Disposable People. But that was over twenty years ago and times have moved on.

But without an awareness of global history of slavery and existence today, there is a danger that the current preoccupation with western transatlantic slavery will just create a simplistic ‘White man bad’ view. That White Europeans are uniquely evil, while other cultures are somehow more virtuous and noble in another version of the myth of the ‘noble savage’.

And it may make genuine anti-racists blind to its existence today, an existence strengthened and no doubt increasing through neoliberalism and the miseries inflicted by globalisation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prince Harry Is Quite Right about Trump and Global Warming

March 11, 2020

One of the big news stories today is about Prince Harry being caught out in a prank call by two Russian hoaxers. They posed as teen climate campaigner Greta Thunberg and her father, and tricked him into making some impolitic comments. The one replayed in the ITV news piece about this story was of the prince saying to ‘Thunberg’ that he didn’t mind telling ‘you guys’, but that Donald Trump had blood on his hands through his refusal to sign the Paris accords on global warming. This was going to have terrible effects on the Pacific Island nations.

The hoax was reported by the Scum, and Zelo Street today has put up a piece wondering if Murdoch’s mighty organ didn’t pay the two jokers or put them up to the job. Because how else would they know that Harry and Meghan are living in luxury on Vancouver Island? That would make sense. The Murdoch press has plenty of previous with this. There’s the entire career of the fake sheikh Mahmood Mazher in the late, unlamented News of the Screws. Mazher, who really came from Birmingham, used to dress up as an Arab sheikh and then ingratiate himself with the good, the great, and the not-so-great, in order to trick them into doing or saying something improper. He tried it with a friend of the two princes and the young man’s girlfriend, whisking them off to Las Vegas. They were given a whirlwind tour of the sites, while Mazher in disguise kept asking them questions about the royal family, and particularly the Queen Mother. The couple didn’t have any opinion about them, and told Mazher that. They didn’t realise who he was at the time, and it was only when they were back in Blighty that they twigged it was him. Not that it did Mazher any good. When they checked with the Screws, they were told that he’d got nothing of any value out of them and the whole trip had wasted £7,000. Good. May all of these stunts by Murdoch’s lackeys be such colossal wastes of money.

This might have some bearing on how Trump views the British establishment or the royal family, but the prince is now a private citizen and can say what the devil he likes. And he is absolutely right about Trump and the Pacific Islanders. Trump doesn’t believe one bit in climate change and global warming, and is actively trying to block any state research and publication of findings showing that it exists. And it is a threat to the Pacific Island nations. One of them – I think it might have been Kiribati – is only a metre or so above sea level. They put on a demonstration a few years ago urging the world and the major powers to do more to tackle climate change, because rising sea levels mean that their homeland may soon be underwater. Harry obviously knows this, and I’m not surprised – his gran is the head of the Commonwealth, after all.

I got the impression that the Murdoch press and the rest of the Tory media hated Harry for marrying Meghan, a woman of colour, and taking over some of her progressive ideas, like feminism and Green politics. They’re probably congratulating themselves even now with having tricked him into disgracing himself.

But not in my book.

The prince was the victim of a disgraceful prank, which serves no good public purpose anyway.

And the prince is absolutely right about Trump, climate change and global warming.

And he’s shown that he takes very seriously both the climate crisis and the welfare of the peoples of the Commonwealth and the world who are affected.

Murdoch and his goons are a disgrace, but Harry and Meghan have outclassed them.

I hope they win their lawsuit against Murdoch and his goons, and that this incident only makes Harry and Meghan more popular, and Murdoch more despised.