In recognition of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, we observe his greatest, most lasting accomplishment: the abolition of slavery. Through this lens, we look at the historic and modern day slave trade to ask the question: how can governments and citizens build a world without slavery?
The U.S. State Department, in their 2016 Trafficking in Persons report, estimated that there are currently more than twenty million people worldwide trapped in human trafficking, a $150 billion industry. How does this happen? And what role does trafficking play in capitalism? We’ve compiled a selection of recommended titles that explore the ways in which slavery and human trafficking, historically and currently, are tightly interwoven into global economies.
What is the relationship between trafficking and free trade? Is trafficking the perfection or the perversion of free trade? Trafficking occurs thousands of times each day at borders throughout the world, yet we have come to perceive it as something quite extraordinary. In Margins of the Market, Johan Mathew traces the hidden networks that operated across the Arabian Sea in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Following the entangled history of trafficking and capitalism, he explores how the Arabian Sea reveals the gaps that haunt political borders and undermine economic models. Ultimately, he shows how capitalism was forged at the margins of the free market, where governments intervened, and traffickers turned a profit.
Kevin Bales’s disturbing story of slavery today reaches from brick kilns in Pakistan and brothels in Thailand to the offices of multinational corporations. His investigation of conditions in Mauritania, Brazil, Thailand, Pakistan, and India reveals the tragic emergence of a “new slavery,” one intricately linked to the global economy. The new slaves are not a long-term investment as was true with older forms of slavery, explains Bales. Instead, they are cheap, require little care, and are disposable. Through vivid case studies, Bales observes the complex economic relationships of modern slavery and offers suggestions for combating the practice, including “naming and shaming” corporations linked to slavery.
In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, more than a thousand pirates poured from the Atlantic into the Indian Ocean. There, according to Kevin P. McDonald, they helped launch an informal trade network that spanned the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds, connecting the North American colonies with the rich markets of the East Indies. Rather than conducting their commerce through chartered companies based in London or Lisbon, colonial merchants in New York entered into an alliance with Euro-American pirates based in Madagascar. Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves explores the resulting global trade network located on the peripheries of world empires and shows the illicit ways American colonists met the consumer demand for slaves and East India goods.
Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World edited by Emma Christopher, Cassandra Pybus, and Marcus Rediker
This groundbreaking book presents a global perspective on the history of forced migration over three centuries and illuminates the centrality of these vast movements of people in the making of the modern world. Highly original essays from renowned international scholars trace the history of slaves, indentured servants, transported convicts, bonded soldiers, trafficked women, and coolie and Kanaka labor across the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans. Together, the essays provide a truly global context for understanding the experience of men, women, and children forced into the violent and alienating experience of bonded labor in a strange new world.