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“Slavery has existed everywhere, on all continents, at all times”


OBS. Nearly 900 pages, 50 historians, anthropologists and archaeologists from 15 countries, all eras and continents studied, from prehistory to the 21st century, from Han China to contemporary Uganda, from Alsace in the North of the medieval period in French West Africa at the beginning of the last century… Did you have the ambition to write a “total” book, the most comprehensive and general history possible on slavery in the world?

Cecile Vidal. On the contrary. Slavery has existed everywhere, on all continents, at all times, and is still rife today. But it was above all not a question of making a “globalizing” story which offers a unique narrative through time and space. With the historian specializing in ancient Greece Paulin Ismard, who edited the book, and the anthropologist and Africanist historian Benedetta Rossi, with whom I coordinated it, we wanted to show the diversity of forms taken by slavery in through history, with its own temporalities, different logics, while analyzing possible connections and influences. Hence the title, “The Worlds of Slavery”. This approach is part of a new more general approach to the history of globalized phenomena. They are now being studied on a global scale; there is now, for example, a world history of colonial empires.

Is that why you didn’t want to reuse the usual definitions of slavery?

We have

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