Slavery and Civilisation
A Small History of a Paradox
In this incisive work, historian Karwan Fatah-Black contributes important historical context to the debate surrounding the cultural legacy of the transatlantic slave trade. He refutes what he calls the ‘Grand Narrative’ that in the history of Christian civilisation, slavery was a short-lived aberration picked up from the Islamic world, until its definitive abolition by humanist Europeans, which many Western Europeans still cling to.
During the transatlantic slave trade, slavery’s justification in the colonies encoded into Western culture a tradition of racial hierarchy and white paternalism, whose reasoning is still repeated today. Fatah-Black ultimately turns to the enslaved and their descendants for a more inclusive narrative, one that acknowledges the pivotal role of the Haitian Revolution of the 1790s – a revolt of enslaved people inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution – in the eventual abolition of slavery.
By including histories of resistance, and the Black humanist ideas that inspired them, we might begin to build a new narrative about our shared past, as well as our future together.