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

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Overview

David Brion Davis has long been recognized as the leading authority on slavery in the Western World. His books have won every major history award—including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award—and he has been universally praised for his prodigious research, his brilliant analytical skill, and his rich and powerful prose. Now, in Inhuman Bondage, Davis sums up a lifetime of insight in what Stanley L. Engerman calls "a monumental and magisterial book, the essential work on New World slavery for several decades to come."

Davis begins with the dramatic Amistad case, which vividly highlights the international character of the Atlantic slave trade and the roles of the American judiciary, the presidency, the media, and of both black and white abolitionists. The heart of the book looks at slavery in the American South, describing black slaveholding planters, the rise of the Cotton Kingdom, the daily life of ordinary slaves, the highly destructive internal, long-distance slave trade, the sexual exploitation of slaves, the emergence of an African-American culture, and much more. But though centered on the United States, the book offers a global perspective spanning four continents. It is the only study of American slavery that reaches back to ancient foundations (discussing the classical and biblical justifications for chattel bondage) and also traces the long evolution of anti-black racism (as in the writings of David Hume and Immanuel Kant, among many others). Equally important, it combines the subjects of slavery and abolitionism as very few books do, and it illuminates the meaning of nineteenth-century slave conspiracies and revolts, with a detailed comparison with 3 major revolts in the British Caribbean. It connects the actual life of slaves with the crucial place of slavery in American politics and stresses that slavery was integral to America's success as a nation—not a marginal enterprise.

A definitive history by a writer deeply immersed in the subject, Inhuman Bondage offers a compelling narrative that links together the profits of slavery, the pain of the enslaved, and the legacy of racism. It is the ultimate portrait of the dark side of the American dream. Yet it offers an inspiring example as well—the story of how abolitionists, barely a fringe group in the 1770s, successfully fought, in the space of a hundred years, to defeat one of human history's greatest evils.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Davis is always judicious and thought-provoking while providing a well-written summation of 20th century scholarship for general readers. Essential."--R.T. Brown, CHOICE

"Inhuman Bondage is, in essence, a retrospective: a brilliant and nuanced summing up of nearly fifty years' scholarship on slavery and abolition, much of it pioneered by Davis himself.... It is a masterful study: broad in conception, bang up to date, consistently challenging, accessible and beautifully written."--John Oldfield, Patterns of Prejudice

"Inhuman Bondage lives up to what readers expect from Davis: it is engagingly written and impressively broad in its scope and analysis."--Laurent Dubois, American Historical Reivew

"A tour de force.... Could not be more welcome.... Davis follows the large story of slavery into all corners of the Atlantic world, demonstrating that hardly anyone or anything was untouched by it. He is particularly interested in the way ideas shaped slavery's development. But 'Inhuman Bondage' is not a history without people. Princes, merchants and reformers of all sorts play their role, though Davis gives pride of place to the men and women who suffered bondage. Drawing on some of the best recent studies, he not only adjudicates between the arguments, but also provides dozens of new insights, large and small, into events as familiar as the revolt on Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) and the American Civil War.... An invaluable guide to explaining what has made slavery's consequences so much a part of contemporary American culture and politics."--Ira Berlin, The New York Times Book Review

"Davis masterfully navigates the long history of slavery from ancient times to its abolition in the 19th century.... Succeeds heroically in wrestling a vast amount of material from diverse cultures. The result is a sinewy book that combines erudition and everyday detail into a gripping, often surprising, narrative."--Fergus M. Bordewich, Wall Street Journal

"David Brion Davis has been the preeminent historian of ideas about slavery in the Western world since the early modern period.... Davis, a leading practitioner of intellectual and cultural history, has now gone far beyond the history of ideas and attempted to study New World slavery in all its ramifications, social, economic, and political, as well as intellectual and cultural.... He convincingly demonstrates that slavery was central to the history of the New World."--George M. Fredrickson, The New York Review of Books

"David Brion Davis, our greatest historian of slavery and abolition, weaves together here one of the central stories of modern world history--and does so with a power, authority, and grace that is his alone."--Edward L. Ayers, author of In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863

"Ranging from ancient Babylonia to the modern Western Hemisphere, David Brion Davis offers a concise history of slavery and its abolition that once again reminds us why he is the foremost scholar of international slavery. There is no more up-to-date account of this pivotal aspect of the world's history." --Eric Foner, author of Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877

"Impressive and sprawling.... Davis's account is rich in detail, and his voice is clear enough to coax even casual readers through this dense history."--Publishers Weekly

"In this gracefully fashioned masterpiece, David Brion Davis draws on a lifetime of scrupulous scholarship in order to trace the sources and highlight the distinctiveness of America's central paradox by situating it in both its New World and Western contexts. His powerful narrative is enhanced and deepened by persuasively rendered details. For students of slavery, and of American history more generally, it is simply indispensable. With all the makings of a classic, Inhuman Bondage is the glorious culmination of the definitive series of studies on slavery by one of America's greatest living historians." --Orlando Patterson, author of Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries

"No scholar has played a larger role in expanding contemporary understanding of how slavery shaped the history of the United States, the Americas and the world than David Brion Davis." --Ira Berlin, author of Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America

"Inhuman Bondage is a magisterial achievement, a model of comparative and interdisciplinary scholarship, and the best study we have of American slavery within the broader context of the New World. It is also a powerful and moving story, told by one of America's greatest historians." --John Stauffer, author of The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race

"This brilliant and gripping history of slavery in the New World summarizes and integrates the scholarship of the past half-century. It sparkles with insights that only an innovator of David Brion Davis's caliber could command." --Robert William Fogel, author of The Slavery Debates, 1952-1990: A Retrospective

Ira Berlin
Davis follows the large story of slavery into all corners of the Atlantic world, demonstrating that hardly anyone or anything was untouched by it. He is particularly interested in the way ideas shaped slavery's development. But Inhuman Bondage is not a history without people. Princes, merchants and reformers of all sorts play their role, though, sensibly, Davis gives pride of place to the men and women who suffered bondage. Drawing on some of the best recent studies, he not only adjudicates between the arguments, but also provides dozens of new insights, large and small, into events as familiar as the revolt on Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) and the American Civil War.
— The New York Times
Library Journal
A preeminent historian of slavery here offers a splendid, big-picture look at the sources, shape, substance, and influences of human bondage throughout the Americas. Pulitzer Prize winner Davis (history, emeritus, Yale; The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture) sweeps from the ancient foundations of modern slavery to its ban in the United States following the Civil War, with an epilog covering the end of slavery in the Americas when it was outlawed in Cuba and Brazil in the 1880s. Davis deftly explores the commercial and cultural systems that delivered dehumanized chattel-and staggering capital profits-to the Americas. His insights on the meaning of slavery extend to its still-shackling racist legacies, while his attention to the heroic persistence of antislavery efforts (including slave insurrections) emphasizes the moral dimensions of choice that willed slavery to start, stop, and still exist. Though Davis focuses on the ideological and institutional developments that distinguished the U.S. slavocracy, his more formidable gift is to offer global perspective on the U.S. experience by pushing beyond parochialism and expanding comprehension of the international connections and dependencies that drove and derailed slavery. Accessible to specialists and general readers alike, this is essential for any serious collection on race, slavery, coerced labor, the modern world, the Americas, or U.S. history.-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195339444
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/18/2008
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 196,228
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

David Brion Davis is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University and Director Emeritus of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, also at Yale. Best known for his highly acclaimed books The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823, Slavery and Human Progress, and most recently, Challenging the Boundaries of Slavery, Davis has won a Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award for History and Biography, the Bancroft Prize, the Albert J. Beveridge Award, and the Bruce Catton Prize for Lifetime Achievement, among other honors.

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Table of Contents

Maps
A Selective Calendar of Events
Prologue
1. The Amistad Test of Law and Justice
2. The Ancient Foundations of Modern Slavery
3. The Origins of Anti-Black Racism in the New World
4. How Africans Became Integral to New World History
5. The Atlantic Slave System: Brazil and the Caribbean
6. Slavery in Colonial North America
7. The Problem of Slavery in the American Revolution
8. The Impact of the French and Haitian Revolutions
9. Slavery in the Nineteenth-Century South, I: From Contradiction to Defense
10. Slavery in the Nineteenth-Century South, II: From Slaveholder Treatment and the Nature of Labor to Slave Culture, Sex and Religion, and Free Blacks
11. Some Nineteenth-Century Slave Conspiracies and Revolts
12. Explanations of British Abolitionism
13. Abolitionism in America
14. The Politics of Slavery in the United States
15. The Civil War and Slave Emancipation
Epilogue
Notes
Acknowledgments
Index

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    As an African American, I find the literature very enlightening and Informative.

    I have a better understanding and insight of the Slavery. I also have a clearer understanding of how I am as an African American.

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