Slavery predates European entry into the Atlantic world in the Age of Exploration, but the system that developed during the 16th and 17th centuries was an arguably more inhumane and racially tinged institution than anything that had previously existed before. The first English colonists in the Americas believed they could become wealthy through mutual trade with Native Americans. This system failed and was replaced by chattel enslavement of Africans to work on cash-crop plantations. American slavery grew and metastisized until it swallowed up over 10 million lives in the Atlantic Slave Trade.

This episode explores the origins of New World slavery (originally based on the Iberian enslavement of Muslims), the miseries that Africans experienced on slave ships, auction blocks, and plantation life, and the establishment of laws in early America that made slavery a cornerstone of the young nation’s economy.

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