Children of Bondage

A Social History of the Slave Society at the Cape of Good Hope, 1652-1838
  • Publication Date: 1997 reprint
  • Dimensions and Pages: 220 x 150 mm, 546 pp
  • EAN: 9781868142750
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 220.00
  • Recommended Price (USD): n/a

In every chapter Shell casts light on neglected topics – such as the architectural, linguistic, theological, sexual and psychological aspects of Cape slavery – or rethinks old ones, like the origins of the slaves or the economic basis of South African slavery. A product of massive research and careful reflection, this study will quickly assume a dominating position in the historiography of early South Africa.

—Richard Elphick, History Department, Wesleyan University

The Dutch East India Company’s introduction of the first slave into the Cape of Good Hope in 1653 established an institution whose legal status ended in 1838 but whose social and political reverberations are still felt today. Children of Bondage is the story of the social, cultural and biological progeny of that first society. In a work which represents a major contribution to the historiography of Cape slavery, Shell examines the complex and highly stratified hierarchies that evolved in South Africa, and outlines how its multiracial system of slavery was distinct from the biracial system that arose in the New World.

He argues that while frontier and class interests were significant factors in South Africa’s racial and political philosophies, these influences were secondary manifestations of a more universal force, namely the family as the fundamental unit of subordination. He also explores the history of oceanic and domestic slave trades, sexual and gender relations within the slave hierarchy and political identity among slaves, and the promises and realities of manumission.

Robert C -H. Shell is Extraordinary Professor of Historical Demography in the Statistics Department at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

With Wesleyan University Press (US)

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