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Chains such as these were used to stop slaves from escaping

Slavery is an economic system. In it, some people must work for no pay. It is also a system of ownership. In many countries slaves were owned by citizens of the country. These people were slaves.

There is evidence that even before there was writing, there was slavery. There have been different types of slavery, and they have been in almost all cultures and continents.[1] Some societies had laws about slavery, or they had an economy that was built on it. During the 20th century almost all countries made laws forbidding slavery. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that slavery is wrong. Nevertheless, there are still different forms of slavery in some countries.[2]

The English word "slave" comes from the medieval word for the Slavic peoples of Central Europe and Eastern Europe, because these were the last ethnic group to be captured and enslaved in Central Europe.[3][4] According to Adam Smith and Auguste Comte, a slave was mainly defined as a captive or prisoner of war. Slave-holders used to buy slaves at slave auctions.

Slaves are not allowed rights.

Slavery today

Millions of people are still slaves in some parts of the world, mostly in South Asia and Africa. It is less common in the developed world because of better law enforcement, but it still happens there as well. [2] The ways in which it is done have changed. Today, slaves may work because of things like a high debt (for example, slaves have to work to pay off a debt). Many victims are told that their families will be harmed if they report the slave owners. Many slaves are forced to be domestic servants. In some cases, their families sell them to the slave owners. Some slaves have been trafficked from one part of the world to another. These people are illegally in their host country, and therefore do not report the abuse. Another form of slavery still happening today is forced child labor. Some children have to work in mines or in plantations, or they have to fight wars as child soldiers, for no pay.

One study says that there are 27 million people (but others say there could be as many as 200 million) in slavery today.[5]

Other terms that describe the recruitement of laborers, and that may have similarities to slavery are Blackbirding, Impressment and Shanghaiing.


Slave contract Lima/Peru 13/10/1794

Some of the countries where there is still slavery are in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.[6] In summer 2007, 570 people were found to be slaves for brick makers in China.[7] Of those freed, 69 were children.[8] The Chinese government made a force of 35,000 police check northern Chinese brick kilns for slaves, and sent lots of kiln supervisors and officials to prison and sentenced one kiln foreman to death for killing a worker who was a slave.[7]

In Mauritania, it is thought that up to 600,000 men, women and children, or 20% of the population, are slaves, and that many of them are used as bonded labour.[9][10] Slavery in Mauritania was made illegal in August 2007.[11] In Niger, there is also much slavery. A Nigerian study has found that more than 800,000 people are slaves, almost 8% of the population.[12][13][14] Child slavery has commonly been used when making cash crops and mining. According to the United States Department of State, more than 109,000 children were working on cocoa farms alone in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in 'the worst forms of child labour' in 2002.[15]

Slave policy

They start at about US$40, in Mali, for young adult male workers. A young woman or a girl may sell for as much as US$1,000 in Thailand.[16] In 1850 in the United States, a slave could have been US$1,000 — about $25,800 today.

In November 2006, the International Labour Organisation said that it would prosecute members of the junta that rules Myanmar (also called Burma) at the International Court of Justice for "Crimes against Humanity". This is because the military makes some citizens do forced labour.[17][18] The International Labour Organisation says that it thinks that about 800,000 people are forced to work this way.[19][20]

Stopping slavery

An agitation called Abolitionism against slavery began in Christian countries in the 18th century. First they abolished the slave trade so more people wouldn't become slaves. In 1833, the British Empire stopped slavery. Several other countries followed. In the United States, disagreement over slavery led to the American Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1865, when the North won, all slaves were made free. Still more countries abolished slavery afterwards. Forced labor however continued, either against the law or by debt peonage or other methods which the laws of the various countries did not count as slavery.

A slave who was beaten very badly. The person who hit him worked for his owner.

Famous people who were slaves

Related pages


  1. Historical survey > Slave-owning societies. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. 2.0 2.1 BBC Millions 'forced into slavery'
  3. slave,, retrieved 26 March 2009 
  4. Merriam-Webster's,, retrieved 18 August 2009 
  5. Kevin Bales, Disposable People
  6. "Does Slavery Still Exist?". Anti-Slavery Society. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Convictions in China slave trial. BBC. July 17, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  8. Zhe, Zhu (June 15, 2007). More than 460 rescued from brick kiln slavery. China Daily. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  9. Mauritania made slavery illegal last month
  10. The Abolition season on BBC World Service
  11. Mauritanian MPs pass slavery law
  12. The Shackles of Slavery in Niger
  13. Born to be a slave in Niger
  14. BBC World Service | Slavery Today
  15. U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2005 Human Rights Report on Côte d'Ivoire
  16. Slavery Today. ed. Auriana Ojeda. Greenhaven Press 2004.
  17. ILO seeks to charge Myanmar junta with atrocities. Reuters. 2006-11-16. Retrieved 2006-11-17. 
  18. ILO asks Myanmar to declare forced labour banned
  19. ILO cracks the whip at Yangon
  20. Critics: Myanmar biofuel drive uses forced labor