How Slavery Is A System That Predates Written Records Essay example

How Slavery Is A System That Predates Written Records Essay example

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Slavery is a system that predates written records. But this system has not been uniform in defining what a slave is. Epitomising this is the Mesoamerican examples of the Aztecs and the Maya. While the Mayans’ slaves were hereditary, the Aztecs’ were personal, so slaves’ children were free and slaves could own other slaves. Consequently it is perhaps naïve to define slavery as a whole as being social death. Social death itself is the condition of one group of people excluded from normal society, encompassing their identity and their lifestyle. Accordingly they are viewed as subhuman and inferior to those who are not slaves. Orlando Patterson, among others, has declared that the two can be linked in all slavery that has ever existed. This essay argues an opposite, that while slavery occasionally resulted in social death, it was not always the case. Legally social death was declared, but practically the outcomes could be very different. To prove this a chronological approach will be taken, looking at three key periods of history: the classical age, the medieval age and the modern period. This approach highlights that social death could be the norm, but exposes specific examples that did not conform to this model in each period. But first the concept of social death will be looked at and how this impacted all parts of life.
As mentioned before social death results in the exclusion of a group from normal society. Subsequently there emerges a separate group to the rest of society who are deemed inferior. But if you are socially inferior, this means also that you are going to be involved in jobs that are deemed inferior too. After all, if societies’ worst did not get the least desirable jobs, then surely there are people who are wors...


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...eriod was it common because of the great exploits committed by the Muslims. Historians who have tended to categorise slavery as social death like Davis and Patterson, can be correct in the specific cases that they look at because these instances are instances of slavery that we envisage today. But slavery itself is not always in these forms, with serfs epitomising the influence that people who are under partial slavery can have. Slavery is a spectrum itself, while death is not. You cannot have varying degrees of being dead, you are either dead or not dead. Moreover Finley notes that people are more prone to judge themselves based from the bottom of the spectrum, slavery, than the top, freedom. Freedom is a western concept whilst slavery is a constant. Thus the term is incorrect for slavery as a whole. Socially dead slavery exists, but social death is not slavery.

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