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date: 26 September 2022

Early Slavery in Bantu and Nilotic-Speaking Africa: The Evidence from Historical Linguisticslocked

Early Slavery in Bantu and Nilotic-Speaking Africa: The Evidence from Historical Linguisticslocked

  • Marcos Leitão de AlmeidaMarcos Leitão de AlmeidaMahindra Humanities Center, Harvard University
  •  and William FitzSimonsWilliam FitzSimonsDepartment of History, Northwestern University

Summary

The history of slavery runs deep in Africa, yet historians have rarely explored the early contexts in which Africans resorted to slaving. The burdens of remembering and reckoning with the global trades in African slaves have no doubt shaped this state of affairs, but examining the early history of slaveries in the continent is critical for understanding central themes of the African past, such as political formation, ethnicity, and economic development. While archaeology often appears silent on this topic, the method of historical linguistics can reveal how northeastern and central Africans resorted to slaving strategies as they settled new places, developed new ways of life, established polities, and faced climate change. Historical research thus shows that “slavery” was never a static institution in the continent, but a fraught category Africans constructed in diverse, albeit related, ways. Accounting for the ways in which Africans built such categories in particular contexts remains a major challenge facing historians of Africa’s earlier past.

Subjects

  • Slavery and Slave Trade

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