For the last half century, scholars in the United States and elsewhere have focused enormous attention on the impact of slavery on the development of the modern world. Scholars in many disciplines agree that to a greater or lesser extent, the modern industrial economy was in part a result of the system of Atlantic slavery that began in the 1450s and ended in the 1800s. Historians have of course long been interested in slavery. But today, slavery scholars are found in law schools, business schools, public policy schools, and medical schools. In universities we find slavery scholars (and courses on slavery) in various departments, including economics, political science, literature, sociology, anthropology, fine arts, art history, and archeology. Movies, television programs, best-selling novels, and museum exhibits illustrate how slavery has become a fixture in American popular culture. Universities have sponsored scholarly investigations into whether their history was tied to human bondage. Slavery comes up in political debate over issues of flying the Confederate flag, building monuments, and reparations. Analogies to slavery are part of modern legal debates.
Slavery is one of the oldest social institutions in human society, and as such, is still relevant today.
Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture, and Law brings together a multitude of essential legal materials on slavery in the United States and the English-speaking world. This includes every statute passed by every colony and state on slavery, every federal statute dealing with slavery, and all reported state and federal cases on slavery. Our case coverage extends into the 20th century because long after slavery ended, courts were still resolving issues emanating from the practice. To give one example, as late as 1901, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had to decide if a man, both of whose parents had been slaves, could be the legitimate heir of his father—under southern law, slaves could never be legally married.
This library has hundreds of pamphlets and books written about slavery—defending it, attacking it, or simply analyzing it—including an expansive slavery collection from Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. The cooperation of this institution was central to developing this collection. We have also gathered every English-language legal commentary on slavery published before 1920, which includes many essays and articles in obscure, hard-to-find journals in the United States and elsewhere. We have provided more than a thousand pamphlets and books on slavery from the 19th century. We have also included many modern histories of slavery. Within this library is a section containing all modern law review articles on the subject, as well.
This library will continue to grow, not only from new scholarship but also from historical material that we continue to locate and add to the collection.
- Paul Finkelman, General Editor