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Slavery and the Law: A Reply

  • Alejandro de la Fuente
  • In response to commentaries on:


I have come to learn that unless one does it in unabashedly critical terms, including “slavery” and “Tannenbaum” in the same sentence is an intellectual exercise fraught with perils. The sole mention of Tannenbaum elicits images of benevolent Spanish and Portuguese masters in contrast to cruel Anglo-Saxon slaveowners, or of rigid dichotomies between racist North America and racially harmonious Latin America. These images clearly influence the comments of my critics, even though they have limited relevance for the central arguments of my article.



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1. See María Elena Diaz, “Beyond Tannenbaum,” and Schmidt-Nowara, Christopher, “Still Continents (and an Island) with Two Histories?Law and History Review 22 (2004): 371–76, 377–82.

2. Davis, David Brion, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1966), 62.

3. Blackburn, Robin, The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492–1800 (London: Verso, 1997), 51.

4. There is a growing scholarship about Mediterranean slavery that scholars of slavery in Latin America should become familiar with. For Spain see Stella, Alessandro, Histoires d'esclaves dans la péninsule Ibérique (Paris: Ecole des Haute Études en Sciences Sociales, 2000); Phillips, William D. Jr, Historia de la esclavitud en España (Madrid: Editorial Playor, 1990); López, José L. Cortes, La esclavitud negra en la España peninsular del siglo XVI (Salamanca: Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, 1989); Silva, Alfonso Franco, La esclavitud en Andalucía, 1450–1550 (Granada: Universidad de Granada, 1992); Silva, Franco, La esclavitud en Sevilla y su tierra a fines de la Edad Media (Sevilla: Diputación Provincial, 1979); Sedano, Carlos Asenjo, Sociedad y esclavitud en el Reino de Granada S. XVI: las tierras de Guadix y Baza (Granada: Colegio Notarial, 1997); Blumenthal, Debra Gene, “Implements of Labor, Instruments of Honor: Muslim, Eastern and Black African Slaves in Fifteenth-century Valencia (Spain)” (PhD diss., University of Toronto, 2000). For Portugal, see Saunders, A. C. de C. M., A Social History of Black Slaves and Freedmen in Portugal, 1441–1555 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); Fonseca, Jorge, Os escravos em Evora no século XVI (Evora: Cámara Municipal, 1997). For Italy, see Epstein, Steven A., Speaking of Slavery: Color, Ethnicity, and Human Bondage in Italy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001).

5. Phillips, William D. Jr, “The Old World Background of Slavery in the Americas,” in Slavery and the Rise of the Atlantic System, ed. Solow, Barbara L. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 4361. The discussion concerning the continuities of this legal system can be framed within the larger context of the debate concerning the European precedents for the Atlantic Slave System. For an introduction to this debate see Davis, David Brion, “Looking at Slavery from Broader Perspectives,” American Historical Review 105 (2000): 452–66; Blackburn, The Making, 31–93; Curtin, Philip D., The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex: Essays in Atlantic History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 328.

6. Vera, Olga López, “La esclavitud en la jurisprudencia civil del Tribunal Supremo” (PhD diss., University of Navarra, 2001). I am grateful to the author and to her advisor, Professor Luis I. Arechederra, for sharing this valuable work with me.

7. Expediente sobre haberse presentado al capitán de Macurijes ocho negros del ingenio San Miguel. 1846. Archivo Nacional de Cuba, Gobierno Superior Civil, leg. 944, no. 33,303.

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Slavery and the Law: A Reply

  • Alejandro de la Fuente
  • In response to commentaries on:


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