Posted by: constantinakatsari | February 8, 2010

The Economics of Roman and American Slavery

Last Thursday we had our second meeting on the Economics of Roman and American Slavery in Comparative perspective. I have been very pleased with the progress of my students. There have been some misunderstandings but their enthusiasm made up for whatever problems may have arisen.

We explored the idea of status and how important it was in both the Roman and American society. At the same time, we dissected ancient and modern evidence on the profitability of slavery and the ways to manage slaves. By now, the students are well aware of management techniques and how to implement them. Of course, I do not expect them to work in plantations full of slaves but the knowledge can be applied also to modern industries. We talked about differences in urban and rural slavery in both the Roman empire and the antebellum American South. Despite the lack of substantial evidence, we found enough indications to help us build the bigger picture.

There was one aspect we have not discussed in class due to the lack of time. That was the development of a global economy in both the Roman Mediterranean and the nineteenth century Atlantic world. The comparison of these two Seas (and the surrounding regions) could help us contextualise the phenomenon of slavery in ancient and modern times. Despite the differences between the two economic systems, there are similarities that allow for the development of a global perspective in both periods. I hope that in the next class, the students will think about it and come up with interesting results.


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