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Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  785 ratings  ·  74 reviews
David Brion Davis has long been recognized as the leading authority on slavery in the Western World. His books have won every major history award--including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award--and he has been universally praised for his prodigious research, his brilliant analytical skill, and his rich and powerful prose.

Now, in Inhuman Bondage, Davis sums up a
Hardcover, 440 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2006)
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4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  785 ratings  ·  74 reviews

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Simon Wood
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it

Describing the rise and fall of slavery in the New World in a mere 320 pages is a demanding project for a historian, and one that David Brion Davis largely (with a few caveats) accomplishes with no small amount of skill in his book "Inhuman Bondage".

The books begins with the Amistad case from the late 1830's which is somewhat at odds with the Spielberg version, though far more interesting and revealing for being so. Davis then makes room to contemplate the roots of slavery in t
J Higgins
Apr 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'm pretty sure after reading this book that slavery is probably the most atrocious thing thing a human can do to another human.

This book is hard to take in a lot places, and will probably cause you to loose sleep.

Probably the worst part of the whole thing is reading that in the late 1800's, Western culture took a fairly barbaric practice that was close to falling out of practice and made it EVEN MORE barbaric as they spread well beyond it's origins of using POW's as slaves.
David Johnston
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first three paragraphs are really notes to myself about the paradox that slavery presents in a spiritual sense and are kind of a preface. Many slave owners considered themselves Christian and enlightened. Thomas Jefferson, while not an orthodox Christian, considered himself Christian and certainly was a child of the Enlightenment and saw the problem of slavery quite clearly as evil and as the original sin of the new country. But he blamed England for introducing slavery to the colonies, but ...more
Juan Duarte
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017
Extremely good read. Taking time to outlining all the different aspects of (In)human bondage, from religious excuse making to the socioeconomic aspects that allowed slavery to thrive as an institution. The sad part is that even today we still see the system perpetuated through the mass incarnation policies in place.
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Slavery is as old as civilization; it was practiced in ancient Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, Rome. The vast majority of slaves have always been agricultural laborers, but the same was true of the vast majority of all humans prior to 1900. Below the field hands were miners; above them were the house servants, craftsmen, and members of surprisingly high-status occupations. In the antebellum Southern United States, a slave could be the captain of a Mississippi riverboat, paying wages to a mixed-race cr ...more
"Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World" by David Brion Davis is an excellent overview of Post-Columbian slavery in the Western Hemisphere.

The focus of this book is the slavery of Sub-Saharan Africans (and their descendants) by Europeans (and their descendants) in the Western Hemisphere between 1492 (the year of Columbus' first voyage to the hemisphere) and 1888 (the year Brazil became the last country in the hemisphere to outlaw slavery). Although this is a relatively s
Oct 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
I’m giving this book four stars even though it did not satisfy me in a manner that I usually expect from a history book. I think this book excels in its scope, the entire history of slavery, and quality of research. However, this also makes the book into a textbook. Some historical issues are reduced to just the facts, while others are given detailed analysis. I feel that the author chooses the right issues on which to elaborate. The chapter about the Curse of Ham is incredibly comprehensive, tr ...more
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing. Davis attempts a monumental task, to be sure, but ultimately the scope of analysis promised by the title and first few chapters is lacking. Towards the latter half of the book, the focus turns almost entirely to the United States, with the rest of the Americas serving as a contextual backdrop at best. Two chapters are devoted to a blow-by-blow account of the Civil War era in the US, but abolition in Cuba and Brazil are relegated to half of the epilogue. The latter half of the book ...more
Stuart Bobb
This was an interesting book and certainly covered the history of slavery in a way I had never before considered. There are many foot notes, even for a work as detailed as this one.

I didn't find this quick reading - it had a style and pace that required some real focus so it is not a quick and easy read. It also organizes the information a bit differently than you might have expected but it covers the enslavement of Africans for labor in the Western hemisphere very thoroughly.

My rating is as lo
Sep 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Probably should give this 5 stars. I'm just stingy. This is an absolutely wonderful book, though of course the subject matter makes it a sober read. I appreciated Davis' treatment of slavery across history and cultures. The book is focused on European and American slavery, though discusses slavery in the Arab world enough to help readers understand its significance.

The discussion of British and American abolition is excellent. Wish there was more analysis of the wider elements of evangelical inf
Dave Clark
May 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
David Brion Davis unravels the history of slavery with keen insights that pay special attention to the development of racial, black slavery. He provides a thorough, yet tightly written narrative that presents the background and conditions that allowed slavery to develop into what most people think of when the word “slavery” is used, which is black slavery in the 19th century U.S. South. He then explains how emancipation was achieved throughout the Western Hemisphere, and how the abolitionist and ...more
Katherine Maxted
I am not reading this book, I am listening to the Audiable version. I really enjoy listening to good books as I knit/crochet. This one is nice and meaty and I'm only half way through, learned alot already. The most enlightening was how scriptures have been used to support mans cruelty to other men over the ages. Look forward to listening to the rest and may enven invest in a printed copy.
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, race
This book (or some similarly comprehensive history of slavery) should be required reading to be a member of US society. Davis surveys the slave system in its entirety - its historical origins, ties to the development of racism, its role colonialism and the creation of the global economy. The Western world as we know it is implicated as a whole in this system and its continuing effects on society.
Judith Grace
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Due to visual problems, I am using Audible books on my Kindle 3 or my I phone! I am loving it.
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
An incredibly insightful, well-written, & well-researched book. I learned way too much to enumerate here.
Nov 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: black-white
Decided not to finish this one. I've been reading a lot about race relations and the history of slavery, and I need a break from it for now. Very bleak...
Jan 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Well written history of slavery in the United States and the rest of the Americas. Michelle Bachman could learn something (anything!) from this book.
Oct 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
David Brion Davis’ Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World traces the development, apex, and collapse of race-based slavery in the Atlantic World. Although Davis treats North American slavery extensively in this volume, he fits the United States South into an Atlantic, if not broadly western, context that stretches back to the legacies of Greco-Roman antiquity. Throughout the volume, Davis rejects economic determinism and subordinates material forces to the conceptual. It ...more
Nancy Millichap
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am reading about slavery in order to understand how its effects continue to reverberate and shape our national life in the US and our ongoing racial issues today. David Brion Davis is an eminent historian who, over his long career, has won virtually every award available in his field: his look at not only US but more broadly Western Hemisphere slavery is the most comprehensive overview of the subject that I’ve so far read. It encompasses economic and political history and is presented with elo ...more
Joseph Stieb
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In Inhuman Bondage, David Brion Davis attempts to enhance our understanding of American slavery by situating this topic in the broader contexts of the transatlantic history of slavery and the roots of racism and slavery in human history. He also continues his career’s work of entwining slavery into the mainstream of American history, forcing Americans to deal with the contradiction that the bondage of blacks was inseparable from the freedom and prosperity enjoyed by white Americans.
The transat
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
The novel begins with the recount of the accurate version of the Amistad case (which took place in the late 1830s) and briefly compares it to the film Amistad by Stephen Spielberg which, though leaning towards the historically inaccurate, produced the powerful desired affect that can be achieved only through exaggeration. He includes maps, details and interesting facts and occasionally goes off topic to discuss somewhat related subjects. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to denounce these tangent ...more
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Davis does a great job deeply covering a lot of historical material without creating a sluggish or tedious pace. Inhuman Bondage traces the roots of modern slavery back to ancient thought, noting how the same ideology used for ancient slavery (enslaving the conquered, debt bondage) was used to justify slavery in wholly different circumstances.

Davis handles a sensitive subject with great care - I would recommend this to any student in place of a history textbook!
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very detailed. Very depressing. Probably the best book I'm ever going to read on the subject, the history of slavery is messy and complicated.
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
A clear and extensive overview of slavery and it's ongoing impact. A beginning well-worth one's time.
Russell Romney
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wanted a book about the history of slavery that balanced depth of research with breadth of scope - not long and boring, but not a cursory overview. This book filled this requirement. Davis moves through the history of the institution of slavery without boring the reader. I am impressed and feel a bit more educated, and therefore am satisfied.

(Note: This is the second book I've read in an attempt to learn more about the history of race in the US. If you are reading this and want to recommend an
Susan Steed
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Incredible Book. All the stuff should have learnt in school but didn't.

Some rough notes I made on some of the key themes (this isn't a review just some of my rough notes):

The role of slavery in capitalist economic systems (even though capitalism in opposed to forced labour e.g. Smith). From a few different avenues:
Stimulated demand for products that had not been demanded before (e.g. sugar, coffee) – see p87. Not only did they stimulate demand for these products but ALSO he argues made workers
Jason DeGroot
Oct 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Whew! Made it! This one took a bit to get through. The first half was a bit dry, throwing out a lot of facts about sugar and tobacco production and trade routes and economics that were a bit over my head. About halfway through, though, the book started to focus on the more human aspect of slavery and the actions taken by specific people, and it was much easier to follow. Overall, it's an eye-opening look at what I realize now I have only a very basic knowledge of. Of the most interest is that ou ...more
James Thorneycroft
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
A good place to start if you are interested in the history of slavery in North America,Davis's book is an apt summary tracing the roots of slavery and the abolitionist movement. Davis believes that racism caused the enslavement of the African people and explains the opinions and arguments of several other prominant historians on the subject.

Most interestingly, Davis's book makes it clear that slavery had not been considered an unusual practice. Misery, suffering, violence and death had been a re
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Inhuman Bondage is historian David Brion Davis giving you a class in the history of slavery, especially from the early modern period to the 19th century, as well as an overview of abolition. It is detailed, but not comprehensive (though it might feel that way), and feels like attending a lecture from the man who probably knows more about slavery and abolition than anyone alive. As prose it is challenging at times and some chapters, especially on abolition, get a little listy, but overall it is g ...more
Jay Perkins
One of the most disturbing elements of early American history is the existence of race based slavery. Even after the American Revolution, and it's resulting explosion of liberty and equality changed the social landscape, the institution prospered. Why is this? Davis does a marvelous job of answering many questions I've had about it's existence and ideology. He discusses the role of slavery in the ancient empires and crusades as well as Aristotle's philosophy of a laboring class, which is importa ...more
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David Brion Davis is an American historian and authority on slavery and abolition in the Western world. He is the Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University, and founder and Director Emeritus of Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. He is a foremost intellectual and cultural historian. The author and editor of sixteen books, and frequent c ...more
“We must face the ultimate contradiction that our free and democratic society was made possible by massive slave labor.” 5 likes
“What matters is that Southern slaves, at least on the larger plantations, created their own African
American culture, which helped to preserve some of the more crucial areas of life and thought from white control or domination without significantly
reducing the productivity and profitability of slave labor. Living within this African American culture, sustained by strong community ties, many slaves were able to maintain a certain sense of apartness, of pride, and of independent identity.”
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