The Impacts of Slavery on the Development of Economy and Agriculture

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Civilization is an important part of human evolution. It didn’t come alone but it did come with its vices and slavery happened to be one of the downsides. Slavery with its drawbacks and issues, has contributed to the evolution of man kind, (Obadina, 2008). There then came a need to do away with hunting and gathering nature, which was of limited few. Everyday needs became difficult and obtaining food did not continue to be the only task for human beings.

Along with civilization then came an increase in the population. This gave rise to management of produced food and distribution across areas where people were saved from hunger and now able to meet their basic needs. This growth and distribution of goods required a labor supply. Laborers were needed in industries, farms and home to maintain and manage livelihoods. Bidding and trading slaves satisfied this demand. Slavery became a very important part of the markets, (Scheidel, 2005). To date back the arrival of slavery, one can trace to the time of Babylon civilization during the 18th century BC. Written proof of slavery during this era can be found in the texts such as ‘The Codes of Hammurabi’. Slaves in Babylon were seen as assets of their masters. They were not considered men of flesh and blood and they were not allowed to own any property of their own, (Blunt, 2012). Further the documentation gave proof to the cruel treatment that the slaves received and various punishments extended to them when they went wrong.

They were used as labourers day in day out by their masters to produce food, construction work, household chores, or any other jobs that required physical effort, (Lifson, 2002). The most common form of slavery that has been witnessed is the denial of individual rights. The rights of living as a human being or taking away its attributes from a specific group of people is the most rooted slavery that we witness, (Obadina, 2008). Bonded labour, child labour, etc., germinates from the sea of poverty and still goes on to exist in the society today. There is slavery present across our society and can be easily seen as that with a higher relevance today than a few centuries ago.

The most significant positive impact of slavery is the rise in economic growth of industrial nations. Nunn, (2008) suggests when goods and services began to be exchanged, new business ventures opened up. This exchange involved slavery and its fruits to a great extent. Trade saw a high rise in the slave populated areas of Asia, North Africa and East Africa prominently. Slave trade was common practice and centers of trade appeared in areas where slave trading openly took place. These towns flourished in abundance, (Obadina, 2008). Slave trade was essentially important at this time due to the fact that areas of abundance required cheap labour for raw materials for farms and industries. As businesses advanced technologically, skilled labourers were required.

Furthermore, Nunn (2008), makes an essential relationship showing how the importation and exportation of slaves has marked its impact on the economic performance of the national and global economy. He relates to the growth of East Africa as a slave trade centre which then later turned out to be an economic growth hub. Prior to slave trade practices, there was common practice of barter in the region. Money was an exchange value and introduced with the slave trade and was beginning to become a common enterprise. If not for slavery, currency used as a mode of exchange would have come much later.

This contribution of slavery can be said to have the second largest benefit on the current growth and development of continents of Africa, Asia and America, (Nunn, 2008). The author further established the connection that infrastructural development can be associated to slavery practices, especially in African region besides many others. Slave trade and slavery gave human kind the opportunity to establish an important public infrastructure which helped in the rapid growth of the economies. The East African railway line is an example of such changing development of that area. Slaves built the line little to no cost and with precision enhancing the movement of goods and services. This made movement easier from the ports to internal land surrounded areas of the continent. The Europe and the North American continent flourished greatly in the shadow of the slave trade prominently. Its efforts can be seen as markers across various developments of contemporary civilization.

Agricultural development has been a major part of economic growth and Clark (2001) stated that slavery played a big role in its development. Many new avenues opened with the slave trade in developing nations. A benefit of slavery when it came to agriculture was domestication of animals as well as cheap and easy labour. Labour and slavery came as a cheap option and it was available in abundance, which made it possible to profit from both land and labour relentlessly. This can be seen through the development of agriculture in Africa. Cheap labour was implemented and multi tasked as a living. They planted, harvested and maintained the farms. During the times of the textile revolution, slaves were forced to work in cotton, sisal farms and indigo farms to produce fibers for cloth and essentials for dying cloth. Some similar trends can be seen with the development of other industries. These industries forced slavery in agriculture to support the economic development. A similar proposal was brought about by another source that stated the supply and demand of labours gave impetus to growth of agricultural practices in the Roman empire, (Andrew 2001).

According to an anthropological study by Blunt (2012), stated the sugar boom in America can be attributed to the employment of slaves in sugar plantation during that time, which gave America its sugar revolution. Cheap labour and less expenses in the production of sugar further promoted the growth of this industry. Brazil was the leading sugar producer during the 16th and 17th centuries. It later turned into the highest sugar producing industrial area. Sugar, molasses and alcohol formed a major production from the sugar industry. With this increase in investment demand for sugar further led to some increases in production and supply. Brazil ranks amongst the top producers of sugar even until this day. Cheap labour gave way for the growth of the sugar industry in Brazil. With the rise in demand for sugar, there was also a rise in demand for labour, which heightened slavery practices. Blunt states that the surprising proceeds from sugar manufacturing were used to buy more slaves for the need for labour in Brazil. Slavery gave way to development of sugar industry in Brazil.

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Another industry tied with farming that saw improvement was tobacco farming and manufacturing that took place in America, (Nunn 2008). Increasingly, tobacco became a slave dominated commodity for production. Enslaved Africans were working to produce tobacco in the region of Maryland and Virginia. A related history can be depicted for the indigo and rice plantations of South Carolina. The same trend had been seen in the cotton industry in America. This is where later on ginneries had come into existence in manufacturing of cotton as well as cotton based products. The indigo and rice plantations found in South Carolina also applied African slaves as their main source of labor.

This applied to the manufacturing of cotton in 1793 in the United States. This is what eventually led to the origination of the ginneries that prepared raw products from clothes and other productions of cotton. The slave trade and slavery actually contributed greatly to allied industries and agriculture. Many nations had benefitted economically just because of slavery, (Obadina, 2008). Advancements in technology along with slavery introduced ways to meet the demands of growing population. Engerman et al (2003), documented on the development of markets of the European nations. Slave ownership presented the approach of asset formation as well as accumulation.

This movement further motivated investment practices. Slaves were a cheap source of labor and there was a low investment made on the slaves for purchase as well as maintenance. This drove slave owners to acquire more profit and then in turn, more investment. Other than slaves, further assets were conceived that brought in returns and functioned as store of value. The slave market too gave the rise to capitalist society. The business world today pursues a simple process to build profit from investments and again invests their profits for better returns, a principle developed during times of open slavery, (Blunt, 2012). This establishes an important economic principle that was developed on the basis of slavery practices that can be used significantly today on many goods and services. Working economies are driven mostly by the fact that investments need to be transformed to profits and newer assets.

The slave trade may have aided in better usage of land, cheap and easier labor supply as well as improving the overall economy. It also had its negative attributes as well, which played an uniformly significant role to transform the new world. When the Europeans came to Africa they came with a few infectious diseases that caused many deaths. The second negative effect was that masters exceedingly exploited African slaves and the contemporary world had criticized it, (Nunn, 2008). This exploitation had divided society between poor and rich. It extended the social divide as well. Until this current day, we can still sense this gap and the resulting struggles in society. For example, several areas of society still consider that the black Americans and black Africans are inferior to the Western white society. Despite the social struggles that have occurred for many years, these communities still struggle for equal rights.

In various cases, the society even discourages union between these communities (Obadina, 2008). In society, it is felt that the western communities consciously attempt to create this distinction and keep it alive as it serves egos as well as economic benefit. Economic and cultural exploitation of the East from the West also left them reliant on the latter as they have the social stature as well as economic power to oversee resources. Most of the developed countries contributed to the advancement of developing countries as it allowed them to manage resources and their political systems. This contribution comes in variou forms. Because of the western control on Africa, it couldn’t progress on the political and economic front and now it requires support from those who had actually ruined this structure, (Finkelman, 2003). The ‘dependency syndrome’ has been created by the west that keeps the African countries dependent on them. This is in several forms of assistance and keeps western and eastern interests viable.

There are many more problems in Africa and other underdeveloped parts of the world, which had been created as a result of slavery and other related practices. Frinkelman (2003), suggested that the ways slaves were treated by masters also had given rise to a new culture of being biased to those who don’t have a strong financial and economic position. Society as well as the judiciary often supported this poor treatment. Many believe that practices of mistreatment of prisoners actually have relations to the mistreatment of slaves in Africa, (Mc Glynn, 1992). Slaves were often beaten, put through long hours of strenuous work, were undercompensated or not paid at all, given filthy living conditions and provided inadequate food. They were denied basic human rights. Nowadays, the use police force to secure and arrest criminals may have also been sparked by similar ways slaves were captured and traded. Slavery was one of the earliest forms of prejudice between human beings and led to other social evils. (Obadina, 2008).

Nunn (2008) also stated many African countries can still see after effects of slavery. Modern forms of slavery are still common here and lead to unacceptable standards of life. Human trafficking is very common. People are kidnapped and smuggled to other countries then sold as domestic helpers and even sold as sex slaves. This is exactly what the slave trade was, (Nunn, 2008). There are several forms of slavery. The African society hasn’t quite come out of it. There have been millions of reported as well as unreported occurrences of child labor. Children who should be going to school are found working in order to meet basic needs of their families. Women are being forced into prostitution as well as other modes of unpaid work. The region received investment from several international businesses that come here searching for cheap labor and to exploit the natural resources. The workers are forced to labor in inhumane conditions underpaid and are given no other accommodations. This lowers the prices of labor in locally as well as in the international market. This cruel cycle has been in place for centuries and doesn’t show signs of coming to a halt in the coming days. We can finally sum up that the slave trade did help the world advance and reach where it is today. There were a few beneficial attributes in the world that would not have occurred without the slave trade.

Cheap supply of labor aided the raise in agricultural as well as industrial production and it also helped society to progress. Not just society during that time but also the generations that were to come benefitted by the slave trade and its results. Slavery was a way to implement cheap and bountiful labor to care for the growing market demand. It may have contributed greatly to an essential role in economic progress in several regions. There were many developments in natural resources, agriculture, technology and the development that came from the slave trade. It also played a big role in keeping industrialization going.

An example is the shift in economic conditions of South America that occurred after the slave trade. Supply chain improved, markets were developed and agriculture expanded due to slavery. The industrial progression attained by way of slavery increased the social divide between the poor and rich continues to exist even until today. There are still great amounts of social disparities that owe their roots to slavery.

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