Volume 1 – The Ancient Mediterranean World – 620 pages
Editors: Keith Bradley and Paul Cartledge

Volume 3 – AD 1420 to 1804 AD – 762 pages
Editors: David Eltis and Stanley L. Engerman

Volume 4 – 1804 AD to 2016 AD – 705 pages
Editors: David Eltis and Stanley L. Engerman, Seymour Drescher, and David Richardson

Publisher:  Cambridge University Press – Total 2,087 pages in 3 volumes
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

The Cambridge World History of Slavery spans around two millennia (2,000 years) from the first century up to the year 2016. Only three of four volumes of this Cambridge World History of Slavery were made available to us for review. Volume 2 was not available. Nevertheless, not only does this three-volume book cover about two thousand years, its total length is over two thousand pages.

In order to provide you our readers a brief overview of what is covered and discussed in this monumental work, we’ve enumerated below the titles of the 77 chapters in its three volumes.

Volume 1 – The Ancient Mediterranean World – 620 Pages

Editors: Keith Bradley and Paul Cartledge

  1. Slavery in the ancient Near East
  2. Slaves in Greek literary culture
  3. Classical Athens
  4. The Helots: a contemporary review
  5. Slavery and economy in the Greek world
  6. The slave supply in classical Greece
  7. Slavery and the Greek family
  8. Resistance among chattel slaves in the classical Greek world
  9. Archaeology and Greek slavery
  10. Slavery in the Hellenistic world
  11. Slavery and Roman literary culture
  12. Slavery in the Roman Republic
  13. Slavery under the Principate
  14. The Roman slave supply
  15. Slave labor and Roman society
  16. Slavery and the Roman family
  17. Resisting slavery at Rome
  18. Slavery and Roman material culture
  19. Slavery and Roman law
  20. Slavery and the Jews
  21. Slavery and the rise of Christianity
  22. Slavery in the late Roman world

While slavery may have begun among pre-historic humans, slavery as recorded by historians began as early as the first century AD (after the death of Jesus Christ), according to the editors of the first volume entitled The Ancient Mediterranean World. “It begins with an overview of slavery in the ancient Near East,” its editors Keith Bradley and Paul Cartledge write in their Introduction.

They then move on quickly to the societies of ancient Greece and Rome, where “slaves were regularly used as primary producers in the key economic activities of agriculture, mining, and manufacturing.” Besides laboring for their masters to create the products that were sold to generate wealth, the slaves also eased the burdens of their masters in their homes by acting as domestic servants.

A lot of topics are the subjects of discourse in the 22 chapters of this first volume as shown above. We are not going to get into the details of those topics and subjects in this combined book review of three volumes, leaving it to you our readers to get copies of these books to delve into them at any depth or detail you want to.


Volume 3 – 1420 AD to 1804 AD – 762 Pages

Editors: David Eltis and Stanley L. Engerman

  1. Dependence, Servility, and Coerced Labor in Time and Space
  2. Part I – Slavery in Africa and Asia Minor
  3. Enslavement in the Ottoman Empire in the Early Modern World
  4. Slavery in Islamic Africa, 1400 – 1800
  5. Slavery in Non-Islamic West Africa, 1420 – 1820
  6. Slaving and resistance to Slaving in West Central Africa
  7. White Servitude
  8. Part II – Slavery in Asia
  9. Slavery in Southeast Asia, 1420-1800
  10. Slavery in Early Modern China
  11. Part III – Slavery Among the Indigenous Americans
  12. Slavery in Indigenous North America
  13. Indigenous Slavery in South America, 1492-1820
  14. Part IV – Slavery and Serfdom in Eastern Europe
  15. Russian Slavery and Serfdom, 1450-1804
  16. Monorialism and Rural Subjection in East Central Europe, 1500-1800
  17. Part V – Slavery in the Americas
  18. Slavery in the Atlantic Islands and the Early Modern Spanish Atlantic World
  19. Slavery and Politics in Colonial Portuguese America: The Sixteen to the Eighteenth Centuries
  20. Slavery in the British Caribbean
  21. Slavery in the North American Mainland Colonies
  22. Slavery in the French Caribbean, 1635-1804
  23. Slavery and the Slave Trade of the Minor Atlantic Powers
  24. Part VI – Cultural and Demographic Patterns in the Americas
  25. Demography and Family Structures
  26. The Concept of Creolization
  27. Black Women in the Early Americas
  28. Part VII – Legal Structures, economics, and the Movement of Coerced Peoples in the Atlantic World
  29. Involuntary Migration in the Early Modern World, 1500-1800
  30. Slavery, Freedom, and the Law in the Atlantic World, 1420-1807
  31. European Forced Labor in the Early Modern Era
  32. Transatlantic Slavery and Economic Development in the Atlantic World: West Africa, 1450-1850
  33. Part VIII – Slavery and Resistance
  34. Slave Worker Rebellions and Revolution in the Americas
  35. Runaways and Quilombolas in the Americas

Volume 3 is essentially a collection of essays written by its editors and chapter authors that explore the numerous and various means of coerced labor that existed in the countries in the continents of Africa, Asia, North and South America from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The prevailing demographics, economics, gender, law, migration, race, and other factors led to outcomes – negative or positive – in these nations.

Volume 4 – 1804 AD to 2016 AD – 705 Pages

Editors: David Eltis, Stanley L. Engerman, Seymour Drescher, and David Richardson

  1. Part I – Overview
  2. Introduction
  3. Demographic Trends
  4. Overseas Movements
  5. Part II – Slavery
  6. The Non-Hispanic West Indies
  7. Slavery in Cuba and Puerto Rico, 1804 to Abolition
  8. Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Brazil
  9. US Slavery and Its Aftermath, 1804-2000
  10. Slavery in Africa, 1804-1936
  11. Ottoman Slavery and Abolition in the Nineteenth Century
  12. Slavery and Bondage in the Indian Ocean World, Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
  13. Slavery in India
  14. Slave Resistance
  15. Black Cultural Production in the Nineteenth Century
  16. Part III – Abolition
  17. Slavery and the Haitian revolution
  18. Slavery and Abolition in Islamic Africa, 1776-1905
  19. European Antislavery: From Empires of Slavery to Global Prohibition
  20. Antislavery and Abolitionism in the United States, 1776-1870
  21. The Emancipation of the Serfs in Europe
  22. British Abolitionism from the vantage of Pre-Colonial South Asian Regimes
  23. The Transition from Slavery to Freedom in the Americas after 1804
  24. Abolition and Its Aftermath in Brazil
  25. Part IV – Aftermath
  26. The American Civil War and Its Aftermath
  27. Dependency and Coercion in East Asian Labor, 1800-1949
  28. Gender and Coerced Labor
  29. Coerced Labor in Twentieth-Century Africa
  30. Indenture in the Long Nineteenth Century
  31. Forced Labor in Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union
  32. Contemporary Coercive Labor Practices – Slavery Today

Volume 4 covers a lot of ground, as you can see from the range of subjects discussed in the titles of its 28 chapters. Numerous and varied events occurred during these 200-plus years in different parts of the world – in the many countries and regions all over the globe.

In this final volume, its four editors make these important points about slavery in the Introduction:

“Slavery has appeared in many different forms and is not always easy to separate from other forms of coerced labor. Nonetheless, there are basic similarities that emerge from the contributions that follow. Most critical of these is the ownership of one human by another and the ability to buy and sell the human chattel such ownership creates. A second common characteristic is the fact that chattel status is an inheritable condition passed down through the mother.”

This is truly an eye-opening and insightful book. What makes it a very valuable one? It is based on research gathered by numerous editors and contributors.