Slavery and the slave trade in pre-colonial Africa
Perbi, Akosua (Manchester College)
Paper given on 5th April 2001 at the University of Illinois
The earliest known legal documents concerned not the sale of land, houses, animals, boats and such like, but the sale of slaves. In Mesopotamia for example, the sale of slaves was known from 2300 B.C. ( A Slavery in Time and Space@, J. Goody, in Asian and African Systems of Slavery, Ed. by J.L. Watson, Berkeley & Los Angeles 1980, p.18).
Scholars cannot agree on the reasons for the rise of slavery. Some believe that the need for labor, especially agriculture gave rise to slavery. Others believe that political reasons gave rise to slavery, and yet others postulate that commerce gave rise to slavery. The general belief held by Historians and Anthropologists is that slavery was not important when Humankind depended on food gathering, hunting and fishing, i.e. the basic economy in the first stage of human evolution. Goody, however cautions that even among hunters and gatherers there were exceptional instances where slavery occurred, and he cites the example of the North West coast of America.