Evolution of slavery

By Jan Bogaarts

Paul E. Lovejoy explains about the three timeframes of slavery expansion in history. In the first chapter of “Transformations in Slavery” Lovejoy describes these three periods 1350 - 1600, 1600 - 1800 and 1800 - 1900. The last of these three stages is the transatlantic slave trade. At the time, the U.S was the main importer of slaves. The end of the american civil war was the end of the last expansion of slave-trading. However, this did not conclude the existence of slavery in the world. Today I ask myself and all the readers of this blog what happened between the years 1900 and 2000 and what stage of slavery we are in today?

The institution of slavery has been outlawed in all countries. Perhaps the most famous of all abolitionist movements is the one that caused the American civil war. The Thirteenth amendment to the constitution was passed in 1865 and since then many countries have followed. The last nation to outlaw slavery was Mauritania in 2007. On paper slavery was beaten between 1900 and 2000 but in reality it persists in smaller numbers. Many forms of modern slavery can be found today in countries that seem to have outlawed it.

Bonded labour and forced migrant labour are two modern types of slavery prevalent in Asia. People who are supposedly free workers are in a situation where the alternative to working is death. In many European countries sex-workers are blackmailed into working their whole lives as prostitutes. According to the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), human trafficking has increased in the last years.

Are we then in a fourth period of slavery expansion? Is it possible that after the decline of slavery between 1900 and 2000, it is picking up again? What can we do to stop slavery besides outlawing it?