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The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery by Junius P. Rodriguez, ed.

The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery, 1997; 805 pp. (2 volumes) $195.

Chronology of World Slavery, 1999; 580 pp. $99.

ABC-CLIO, 130 Cremona Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93117. 800-368-6868 or 805-968-1911.

It's not just about Africa; it's not limited to a continent, an era, or the Confederacy's state of mind. Slavery has existed in some form in every part of the world and, at least, since victors of battles around the first Neolithic town (Jericho, c. 6800 b.c.e.) spared their captives for the explicit purpose of enslaving them. Junius Rodriguez has produced a small library (which is where you will probably need to read these expensive volumes) that catapults slavery out of the realm of Dark-Continent trade and into the here, now, there, and always.

Chronology of World Slavery is just that, by continent. It's often not clear what the precise relationship of an entry is to slavery of the period?c.e. 173 China suffered an eleven-year plague...and??but chapter introductions and historical sidebars are strong. The last third of the book is an intriguing sampler of historical documents chronicling slavery from eighteenth-century Babylonia through 1995 Brazil.

The real treasure is the two-volume Encyclopedia, a soaring, sobering, compelling overview of slavery from the earliest societies of the Near East through the anti-slavery organizations of the 1990s. The institutionalization of slavery as an economic force dates to the glorious archaic societies of Greece and Rome, whose achievements accrued on the spine of slave labor. The England of 1806 ascribed to its slaves no more rights than to livestock. In the Caribbean, an appeal by religious leader Bartolom de las Casas to the Spanish authorities to rely on African, rather than indigenous, labor, triggered a four-century-long slave trade and codified many elements of modern slavery.

The Encyclopedia is laid out alphabetically, without regard to the nature of the entry (biography, treatise, philosophy). It's a pollination read, a dip into slave art, confraternities, the Dublin of c.e. 1000, papal bulls, and eunuchs. Every entry has a suggested-reading list (an invitation under Ancient Art to read "Hypersexual Men in Augustan Baths," for one), and refers to related entries elsewhere in the set. You don't need to keep one book open for reference as you move on (good thing - these are BIG books).

Maybe the biggest lesson in here is that it ain't over yet, and it ain't only "over there." I only wish Rodriguez had been more hard-nosed about that.


ISBN: 0874368855

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