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Slave Trade

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Chief Makwira and his wives, Malawi, 1903. Older men had first priority. Younger men could gain access to women only through war or adultery.  Credit: Wikimedia Commons
In my last column, I reviewed the findings of Butovskaya et al. (2015) on testosterone and polygyny in two East African peoples: - Testosterone levels were higher in the polygynous Datoga than in the monogamous Hadza. This difference is innate. - Datoga men were more aggressive than Hadza men on all measures used (physical aggression,... Read More
Collection box for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society circa 1850.  Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Throughout the world, kinship used to define the limits of morality. The less related you were to someone, the less moral you had to be with him or her. We see this in the Ten Commandments. The phrase "against thy neighbor" qualifies the commandment against bearing false witness and, implicitly, the preceding ones against killing,... Read More
St. Adalbert freeing Slavic slaves (source). With the Christianization of Eastern Europe, the trade in fair-skinned women and boys came to an end. The white slave trade played a key role in ending the Dark Ages—this seemingly unending downward spiral that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire. By the 8th century, the elites of... Read More
The Slave Market, painting (c. 1884) by Jean-Léon Gérôme (source) Can Europeans, and European women in particular, become objects of trade? The idea seems laughable, since the term ‘slave trade’ almost always brings Africans to mind. Yet there was a time not so long ago when Europe exported slaves on a large scale. Between 1500... Read More
Although the slave raiders usually left infants behind, older girls and boys could be taken, if suitable for immediate sale (Selling a child-slave, painting by Vasily Vereshchagin – source). Europe used to export slaves to the non-European world. Such a statement would astonish most people today, even among the university-educated. Surely, those slaves were few... Read More
A new arrival (painting by Giuilo Rosati - source). The privilege of white skin … Earlier this year, fashion model Cameron Russell condemned the unbearable whiteness of her industry: […] I won a genetic lottery, and I am a recipient of a legacy. For the past few centuries, we have defined beauty not just as... Read More
Slave exports to the Americas from different parts of Africa (Dalton & Leung, 2011). Did the slave trade create patterns of behavior that today exist throughout sub-Saharan Africa, such as generalized polygyny? Why is polygyny so frequent in sub-Saharan Africa? As Goody (1973, p. 177) noted, the differences with Eurasia are striking: Goody (1973) attributes... Read More
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