Slavery in World History: Insider vs. Outsider

The biggest source of slaves, historically, has been warfare- prisoners of war. In the 16th and 17th century, there is no shortage of prisoners of war in Europe. It would have been so much easier to simply take those people and transported them as slave labor to the Americas. But instead, they took slaves from Africa. One possible explanation for this: insider/outsider thesis. In looking back at the history of slavery, he says people tend not to enslave their own. Insider, however, means different things in different parts of the world- and that is part of the issue. Europeans had a definition of insider that was big and broad. They were not going to enslave each other because their definition of insider spanned pretty much the entire continent. Meanwhile, in Africa, which is a much bigger continent than Europe, they tended to define insider in more precise ways that Europeans did. They defined it more locally- you had to be part of their community to be an insider. This definition meant they could still enslave people on the same continent without it being considered enslaving your own people.