Friday, July 20, 2012

Slavery in the 18th Century Essay

Slavery in the 18th Century Essay

Slavery persisted throughout many centuries and survived since the ancient epoch till the present days. Naturally, at the present days, slavery is rather viewed as an exceptional and absolutely unacceptable phenomenon while in the past it was viewed as a norm. It is worthy of mention that just a couple of centuries ago, namely in the 18th century, a slavery was an essential part of socio-economic life of American society and many people sincerely believed that slavery is a normal phenomenon which actually helped the US to progress economically. On the other hand, there existed a strong opposition to slavery. The abolition movement, in contrast to supporters of slavery, focused on the inhuman nature of slavery and the violation of all basic human rights and moral values. In the result of such a contradiction of views, the slavery as a historical phenomenon was documented and described in publicist, scientific and literary works in different ways which were often contrary to each other.

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Basically, it should be said that neither of the opposing views, i.e. the views of abolishers and the views of supporters of slavery, could be viewed as totally authentic since the interpretation of the events and historical role of slavery in the 18th century could hardly be assessed objectively by contemporaries for whom slavery was a part of their life and remained a subject of great discussions (Inikori 1989:378). Moreover, slavery provoked the serious conflict within American society and actually led to the Civil war (Crafts 1994:295). This is why it is impossible to estimate that the contemporaries who could observe the process of the development and abolition of slavery could not be objective enough. Instead, they supported one of the positions for or against slavery that naturally brought an additional and subjective shade of meaning in their documentation of the events and history of that epoch.

Basically, there were several factors that contributed to the high degree of subjectivity in the documentation of the historical epoch of slavery in the US by the contemporaries. Firstly, slavery was the basis of the economic life of the Southern states. Naturally, people living in the South and supporting slavery could not view this phenomenon otherwise but as a natural way of the economic development of their country. This is why they viewed slavery from the position of a businessman who assessed the effectiveness of a tool or a way of production. Consequently, slavery was just a tool that could make Southerners rich and prosperous.

In stark contrast Northerners could not document slavery objectively since often they viewed cheap labor of slaves as a major competing force in the labor market. Also, there was a part of thinkers that were the opponents of slavery in principle without any intention to take into consideration any position that was different from their own. Thus, they were originally subjective in their interpretation of slavery as historical phenomenon and their beliefs were one of the major factors that contributed to the inauthentic documentation of slavery in the 18th century.

In such a situation, it would be possible to presuppose that after the abolition of slavery, socialists could document this phenomenon authentically. However, the documentation of slavery still remained quite subjective. In this respect, it should be said that after the abolition of slavery, specialists viewed slavery in retrospection. This means that they knew the history of the development and agony of slavery leading to its abolition, they new outcomes and historical consequences of slavery. Obviously, this knowledge could not fail to affect dramatically their perception of slavery.

As a result, people living after the abolition of slavery and attempting to document this phenomenon authentically failed to fulfill this mission. And the retrospection was the major factor that prevented them as well as it still prevents modern people from totally objective interpretation of this historical phenomenon because the abolitionary position was and still viewed as the only correct (Solow 1985:116). The latter influenced the perception of people living after the abolition of slavery since they viewed slavery in terms of rejection this phenomenon as humanitarian catastrophe or violation of all democratic norms but not as an economic necessity, for instance.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the documentation of slavery in the 18th century was inauthentic since the contemporaries who lived in the epoch of slavery was influenced by their beliefs, economic interests, and philosophical views, while those who attempted to document this phenomenon after the abolition of slavery viewed it in retrospection, being unable to assess it objectively.
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