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By David Eltis

A historical past of significant world wide inhabitants routine, unfastened and compelled, from approximately 1500 to the early-20th century. It explores the moving degrees of freedom below which migrants travelled and compares the stories of migrants (and their descendants) who arrived below diverse labour regimes.

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Sample text

For four centuries from the mid-fifteenth century to 1867, Europeans were not prepared to enslave each other, but were prepared to buy Africans and keep them and their descendants enslaved. Given that “Africa” scarcely existed as a concept for Africans in any sense before the nineteenth century, there were always some people living in the subcontinent south of the Sahara who were prepared to enslave others from adjacent or distant societies. “Pan” in this formulation refers to conceptions of who might be considered eligible for enslavement, not political and economic cohesion.

Spain conquered and then administered an existing empire, the main export of which was precious metals—first looted and then mined. 6 Spain and to a lesser degree Portugal moved into the richest and most populous areas of the New World; and Spanish America, at least, exported few commodities compared to later European regimes. It is unlikely that the few native textiles, hides, and plantation products that crossed the Atlantic in the sixteenth century from Spanish America could have justified their transportation costs without piggy-backing on the very high 40 David Eltis value to weight ratios of bullion exports—the latter ensuring cheap space for lower-value items.

A more important development was the tapering off of large-scale enserfments in the late eighteenth century—the transfer of state peasants to private owners by Catherine the Great and Paul being the last such meas- Introduction 21 ure. 31 It is thus not only in the timing of emancipation itself, but in the removal of one of the main underpinnings of the coercive systems, that parallels exist between East and West. In Russia this ending coincided with the disappearance of pro-serfdom arguments, and an increase in the laws facilitating manumissions as well as in measures to ameliorate the conditions of those not emancipated— including restrictions on sale and possible movement.

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