Slavery and its effects will probably long remain among the most contentious of topics. Outlawed universally only recently, the institution is one of humanity’s oldest and most widespread forms of domination. It still exists, despite laws to the contrary, in some societies around the world. Social disabilities suffered by former slaves and their descendants are important legacies. And the lessons which the history of slavery can teach us have still not been fully elucidated or absorbed. It thus remains a topic of importance to teachers and researchers in every branch of humanities and social science.
The literature on slavery has been dominated by the study of plantation slavery in the Western world, especially the Caribbean, Brazil and the United States. Studies of slavery in other areas and times have often been colored by biases and preconceptions based on American chattel slavery. Even when the intent of a scholar has been to contrast slavery in other societies with that in the Americas, the questions posed and the methods used have too often been shaped by the questions and methods of scholars working in the Americas. This has vitiated attempts at comparison.