Slavery discourse before the Restoration: The Barbary coast, Justinian's Digest, and Hobbes's political theory

History of European Ideas 36 (4):412-418 (2010)

Seventeenth-century natural-law philosophers participated in colonizing and slave-trading companies, yet they discussed slavery as an abstraction. This dispassionate approach is commonly explained with the “distance thesis” that the practice of slavery was at some remove from Northwest Europe. I contest the thesis, with a specific focus on pre-Restoration English discourse and Hobbes's political theory. By laying out the salient context — English experience of Barbary-coast slavery and an inherited neo-Roman intellectual frame — I argue, first, that slavery was hardly a distant phenomenon and, second, that Hobbes's discussion of slavery expressed ideas familiar in ordinary discourse. The conclusion contrasts the English neo-Roman outlook with Spanish neo-Aristotelianism
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DOI 10.1016/j.histeuroideas.2010.06.001
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