Slavery In England

 In Social Life, women

The throwing of statues into Bristol Docks and our past investments in sugar cane touch on a sore that has long plagued humankind. This topic struck me because Ann is reading a book called ‘River Kings’. It is about Vikings, for whom slavery was a fine art. For certain, they took their cue from the Romans. They introduced slavery in England to a degree that we fail to understand. Consequently, what the Romans did for us has a very dark side.

The slave market

The slave market was an essential feature of Roman Life. A recent television programme highlighted this in featuring an amazing Roman mosaic found near Peterborough. Looking at it, I realized that this elite Roman or Romanised Briton could only afford such artistic wonders because of market economics. This demanded that an awful lot of people had to work as slaves to maintain a rich man and his family in this villa. The reality of early life was tough. Any thought that you could make millions through your own toiling labour was not reality. However, there is little evidence that slavery in England existed before the Roman invasion.

The Dark Ages

Experts often wonder why the infrastructure in England fell apart after the Romans left. It’s because that infrastructure simply could not be maintained without slaves. The English fell back into their old habits, forming regional tribes. Without a centralised Londinium, nobody was in overall charge. Neither did they enslave people. They just fell back on farming the rich soils and living the rural life. Poverty was endemic and people turned to religion, the promise of a better life in the next world. Slavery continued though in Europe, Asia and Africa long before Britain got into the slave trade.

Slavery in England

I imagine most of us would argue that the Industrial Revolution ended slavery. Machines enabled high productivity but at a cost. Here in the Peak District, stories abound on the awful treatment of children in cotton mills. Add in the mining and quarrying deaths and it paints a damning picture. Meanwhile, in agrarian communities all over the world, keeping slaves was and is routine. Why do the dirty work yourself when you can force somebody else to do it? Many cultures are willing and happy to enslave people. What’s the betting that they have gorgeous artworks, like floor mosaics, in their homes.

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