African American And Middle Eastern Slavery

963 Words Feb 29th, 2016 4 Pages
A common occurrence in the twentieth century historiography of American and Middle Eastern slavery is to downplay the significance of African societies as major players in the international trade network, while ignoring the slave trade’s effect on cultures throughout Africa. Paul Lovejoy attempts to highlight these connections by examining how the demand for slaves in the export market altered local political economies and drastically changed the practice of slavery throughout Africa. Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa is a synthesis work, covering multiple regions of the continent over a span of five hundred years, beginning in the fifteenth century. It is an impressive piece of historical scholarship that describes the ripple effect made by the international slave trade on nearly every society in Africa, even those with limited European contact. Despite several intriguing and logical arguments, the book displays moments of inconsistency. His definition of a slave is too narrow for his application of it, his synthesis approach results in frequent generalizations, and by assuming total domination of the enslaver over the enslaved he denies any possibility of slave agency.
Lovejoy’s definition of slavery changes based on his needs, and he rarely applies it to his analysis of Africa’s internal market. Sometimes it is rather limited, leaving the reader to wonder if any but the harsher slave societies would qualify, while in practice, particularly when…
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