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Servitude in Modern Times

ISBN: 978-0-7456-1729-9
304 pages
November 2000, Polity
Servitude in Modern Times (0745617298) cover image
This book offers a comparative analysis of the major systems of servitude present in the world since 1500. Slavery, serfdom, debt bondage, indentured service and convict labour all provided labour and service through the legal subjection of one person to another, but remained very different. By comparison and contrast, this study seeks to establish their distinctive character.



Servitude in Modern Times concentrates on the forms of servitude that figured in the process of early modernization: notably the white bonded labour, convict and indentured, used to settle North America; the slave systems of the Americas and the Ottoman Empire; and the serf regimes of central and eastern Europe. It also examines the servitude that survived the emancipations of the nineteenth century: the endurance of slavery and debt bondage in Africa and Asia; the extensive use of indentured service on colonial plantations; the forced labour provided by the concentration camps of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. Traditional assumptions are challenged: M. L. Bush argues against the standard, neo-abolitionist view that the servile were powerless victims, proposing that, in most cases, they ingeniously succeeded in acquiring rights and liberties. He shows how servitude contributed to the modernizing process by compensating for the shortage of waged labour which was frequently encountered by early capitalism. In this respect the book challenges the progressiveness with which modernization has normally been depicted.



Servitude in Modern Times will be of great interest to students and scholars in history, politics and sociology, as well as to a general public horrified by man's inhumanity to man.

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Preface.

Part I: The Forms of Legal Bondage:.

1. Servitude Comparatively Considered.

2. Modern Slavery.

3. Modern Serfdom.

4. Indentured Service.

5. Debt Bondage.

6. Penal Servitude.

Part II: Emergence and Development:.

7. White Servitude in the Americas.

8. New World Slavery.

9. European Serfdom.

10. Islamic Slavery.

Part III: Emancipation and After:.

11. Abolition in Europe and the Americas.

12. The Survival of Servitude.

Conclusion: The Significance of Modern Servitude.

A Bibliography Essay.

Notes.

Index.

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M. L. Bush is Research Professor of History at Manchester Metropolitan University
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    A wide-ranging analysis of the different forms of servitude which have existed in the world since 1500
      Broadly comparative in character, it ranges from the slave practices of the Americas to the forced labour regimes of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany
        Written by one of the leading scholars in the field
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        'Servitude in Modern Times explores and explains the great variety of unfree labour systems that have flourished in one or another part of the world under the influence of the rise of capitalism. The book's scope is exemplary, covering serfdom and debt bondage as well as chattel slavery, and ranging from Europe and the Americas to Africa and the Islamic world. The world of unfree labour and the movements of emancipation usually constitute two separate realms of study; here they are most fruitfully brought together. While condemning the essential cruelty of servitude, M. L. Bush conveys a historical understanding of systems of oppression that were regarded as perfectly civilized until very recently, and new forms of which survive into the present.' Robin Blackburn, University of Essex

        'The author takes as his subject practically every form of labour, apart from freewage labour, that has existed between the sixteenth century and the present. His concern, however, is less with the persistence of archaic institutions than with the emergence of new commercially driven forms of bondage, among them the slave empires of the new World and the so-called new serfdom of Eastern Europe. Far from being a relic left over from earlier times, servitude is shown as playing a key role in the shaping of the modern world. The evidence for this is so overwhelming that one wonders why it has so frequently been overlooked...As a historian hitherto principally concerned with European social stratification, Bush has no time for handwringing over the injustices of the past, preferring to emphasize the positive contributions made to the shaping of the modern world by those who laboured under duress.' Howard Temperley, Times Literary Supplement

        'A well researched and skillfully written book ... This work makes a significant contribution to the study of servitude. The depth to which Bush plumbs his subject exceeds most works. It can serve as an introductory work to the subject for interested readers, but it can also be profitably mined by professional historians, sociologists, psychologists and college students.' History

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