Inhuman Bondage by David Brion Davis (Short Review)

Davis’s book Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World is not a particularly happy read, provided, it is informative. As what one might expect from reading the title, Davis’s intent is to chronicle the history of slavery in the New World, what he defines as North America and the Caribbean, with parts of colonized South America. He accomplishes his job well with major emphasis on the realities of the slaves living conditions and how daily life-in both the political and personal-was conducted in the various new world countries. He touches on African participation in the slave trade, details some slave revolts and conspiracies, and finishes up by focusing on the downfall of slavery itself, with special attention given to the American Civil War and British role in ending slavery. Read for a history course I was required to take in my first semester of university, I cannot condone the embarrassing contemporary political commentary that the author thinks is relevant to some of his explanations (such as asserting the similarities between chattel slavery and the work camps in revolutionary China, which, in fact, were voluntary for all non-criminal offenders), I can say that when he focuses on the subject matter itself, slavery in the concrete, he excels in his topic. Can’t say that it is a piece of literature which I would recommend, as it is extremely boring all the same, but if you need something to give you some solid perspectives on the construction of slavery then this is your man.

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