Shifting Perceptions of People Smuggling and Human Trafficking in America at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
When the history of American abolitionist legislation is assessed—if it gets any consideration at all—the 1910 White Slave Act is often regarded as a flawed overreaction to a largely imagined, or at least exaggerated, problem. However, the law, usually known as the Mann Act, has arguably influenced US trafficking policy more than any other single law since the 13th Amendment. This article examines the career, ambitions and misfortunes of one of the leading figures behind the Act, the immigration investigator Marcus Braun, to show how the concept of slavery was manipulated. It also shows how the problem of trafficking evolved over the opening years of the twentieth century and how the legacy of the Mann Act has continued to affect American attitudes toward sex and morality and their ties to slavery ever since.
Chile’s abolition of slavery (1823) has commonly been framed within a self-congratulatory narrative that emphasizes the philanthropic role of republican elites and the peaceful nature of slave emancipation. The traditional narrative not only views abolition as an ideologically inspired gift from the elites, but also underscores Chile’s exceptionalism vis-à-vis other South American emancipation processes—in Chile, unlike in the rest of the continent, the eradication of slavery was supposedly both politically and socially insignificant. This article challenges two of this narrative’s assumptions: first, that consensus characterized the abolition of slavery in Chile, and second, that abolition was simply a philanthropic concession from the new nation’s republican elites. Instead, this study highlights how officials, slaveholders and enslaved people transformed slavery and its dismantlement into a contested issue. It also explores the proactive role that enslaved people played in undermining the institution of slavery throughout Chile, ultimately leading to its abolition.
The Economic Function and Social Location of Babylonian Servitude
This contribution looks at Babylonian slaves and servants as they appear in 322 Old Babylonian letters. This corpus has not been used for this purpose before, and now reveals that the primary economic functions of slaves had to do with information and credit in an economic environment of mercantilism, rather than with labor in the agricultural sector. Cuneiform letters, rarely mentioning work, instead emphasized the independent movement of slaves, their delegation as proxies to their masters to conduct business, and their capacity to serve as collateral for loans. The analysis of this evidence permits a deeper look at the ethics of care and control that conditioned the relations of masters and slaves, and what we can now say about the personhood of slaves and servants.