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

4.6 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195140736
ISBN-10: 0195140737
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer Prize-winner Davis follows Challenging the Boundaries of Slavery with this impressive and sprawling history of "human attempts to dehumanize other people" that focuses extensively on slave rebellions. These counter-attempts, Davis argues, are what form the base of the identities and communities of the descendants of New World slaves. In charting the evolution of slavery and societies' responses to it from 71 BCE to 1948, Davis author shows how ancient slavery practices mirrored the process of animal domestication, explores the moral conflicts the United States faced during the American Revolution and how the Haitian revolutions disrupted the class system. A lengthy and especially informative study of British and American abolitionist movements paves the way for a concise breakdown of American slavery politics during the Civil War and reconstruction. Davis's account is rich in detail, and his voice is clear enough to coax even casual readers through this dense history.
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From Booklist

History professor Davis places American slavery in the broader global context as part of the world's first system of multinational production from which mass markets were served. American slaves from West Africa produced commodities that fueled European expansion and the settlement of America. At its peak, American slave labor helped to maximize production for international markets. Davis emphasizes the dehumanizing nature of American slavery and the reliance on racial differences, i.e., between blacks and Native Americans, to solidify social and economic differences. Exploring the origins of antiblack racism, Davis examines nineteenth-century slave revolts, the Civil War, and emancipation. The Amistad case, involving African slaves who commandeered their slave ship and eventually sued for their freedom, provides the basis of an analysis of multinational charters of the Atlantic slave trade. The broader perspective on American slavery--its social and economic impact on the growth of the U.S.--forces readers to face the contradictions between our democratic ideals and economic impulses. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195140737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195140736
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.5 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #558,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Von Drehle on April 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This brilliant book is the best one-volume account of New World slavery I have seen, or could imagine. Davis has done something rare here. Having mastered this history over a lifetime of distinguished scholarship, he has now distilled his knowledge for a general audience. Too often, the experts won't, or can't, "popularize," and the popularizers are not expert. Davis is a gifted writer--some of the prose in this book is breathtaking--and an unusually lucid thinker. And so he was able to get his vast knowledge into a tight frame.

An earlier reviewer, while acknowledging how "glorious" this book is, complained of digressions. But where that reader saw detours, I found electrifying connections and illuminating comparisons. To survey history is to digress, because there is always more than one thing going on at a time, always more than one current steering events.

Slavery is not a pleasant subject, but it is as important to American history as any subject could be. Here we have the book that allows every sincere reader to acquire a broad understanding of this sordid, crucial story.

I rarely pay much attention to blurbs on the back of a book. But the testimonial to this book by Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson bears repeating, because it is exactly right. This is a "gracefully fashioned masterpiece ... simply indispensable ... the glorious culmination of the definitive series of studies on slavery by one of America's greatest living historians."
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Format: Hardcover
If you are over 60 and did not self-educate on slavery,you need to read this book. Believe me, slavery was a barely mentioned topic in elementary school through college. I know this is true for Blacks in the South and probably is true for other races as well.

This book is a must read for those non-academics who want to have a better understanding of slavery in America and the Americas. The sexual exploitation and psychological impact of slavery is generally known. This book, however, allows one to get the full picture of slavery from a global, economic and political perspective. There is nothing better for a painful subject like this than finding a reliable (well documented) and easy to read source by a respected author.

A great gift for your friends, no matter what race!
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Format: Hardcover
This is an altogether splendid book. It is skillfully written such that it is difficult to put down; the notes are voluminous, the maps helpful, the range of information brought together and organized successfully impressive, the opinions of the author clearly expressed, and acknowledgement and credit to other historians generous. Despite this, one does wonder for whom the book was written, surely not the hypothetical general reader. Much more information than the lawyerly standard of what everyone knows is frequently called for. To give just one example, on pp. 265-66, a free black is shown worrying about the effects on him of the Fugitive Slave Law. One drops immediately to how Anthony Burns was hauled through the streets of Boston on his way to Virginia. Is one to infer that Burns was a free black erroneously seized or an escaped slave? And although Davis details how important the religious motivation was in abolitionist thought, nowhere was there any explanation of how this Biblically based thinking, which at this time was largely literal, coped with or was able to get around the clear Biblical acceptance of slavery. And one could wish, particularly in view of their extent and comprehension of various aspects of the subject, that the citations in the notes had been compiled into a bibliography. Nevertheless, I would recommend to anyone who is at all interested in slavery, the Civil War, racism, and a host of associated topics, that they do themselves a favour and read Inhuman Bondage.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In under 350 pages, David Brion Davis presents a wealth of information for those exploring the history of slavery for the first time or for readers seeking additional information to supplement past books and articles.

Unfortunately, it reads like a choppy college lecture, with the flow of material marred oftentimes by the circular exploration of material. A topic may be introduced, then discussed in depth later and then reintroduced for concluding remarks many pages later.

Davis utilizes numerous resources from contemporary historians and it is appreciated that he introduces the author and the work to the reader while quoting from the material.

Inhuman Bondage is an important work in the growing number of books covering the sordid past that has been "conveniently" ignored or flippantly tossed aside in past historical writings.

By coming to terms with the past and acknowledging the damage it has done is the only way the words from Davis and others will truly have full meaning.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My only regret is that I did not buy this in hard copy. The next time I read it, and I will read it again, it will be in hard copy so that I can make notes and take more time to analyze and study the information.

Do not be afraid of the academic founding of this book. It is thought provoking, enlightening, challenging, and the passion of the author is evident. I have traveled a great deal around the world and the issue of poverty, especially extreme poverty, and slavery straddles a fine line. When a person, child or adult, is desperate for food, shelter, and a future it is very easy for them to be taken advantage of and placed in bondage and potentially in slavery.

One of the key actions in this book is to define slavery and one definition stood out remarkably to me - "denial of a social identity". Removing a person's "social identity" denies that person human rights - such as the untouchables in India- denies them a voice in "democratic" countries - such as women who have no freedom without the presence of a male relative or the right to vote; denies them a place in society in order to obtain a job, build a home, have a family, and travel freely - as happened in the economically and politically motivated Apartheid of the United States and South Africa (that only came to a legal end in SA in 1994).

Denial of Social Identity is only one aspect of the many nuances of slavery. The author also separates slavery from racism. It is possible to be racist without the presence of slavery, but slavery, or the history of a race can have an enormous impact on how they are perceived in a specific society or cultural group.

The author explores these nuances and links the past with the present and on into the future.
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