ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Mar 07, 2018 3:27 pm UTC

In this context, it was about how RMS was apparently not only not taught about Britain's crimes against humanity, but was so thoroughly mistaught that somehow Britain was the HERO in all of it. To godwins up this thread, it's the difference between Germany not covering WWII, and Germany insisting that Hitler was a good guy who loved Jews because he saved the life of his mother's Jewish doctor.

If a British teacher is ignoring the chapters where Britain committed mass atrocities, that's one thing. If the teacher is not ignoring those chapters, but intentionally rewriting them to make Britain the hero using quote mines and cherrypicking?

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Mar 07, 2018 4:09 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:But yeah, most teachers teach history that's correct...from a certain point of view. Lots of very interesting bits might get left out because they're inconvenient to a particular worldview. Not necessarily lied about or what not, just...not given space. I happened to get a home schooled education with a ridiculous amount of religion wrapped up, and they sort of left off uncomfortable bits by great christian figures throughout history. Columbus certainly got a hefty dose of image help, but say, various interactions with Native Americans got skimmed over or polished up all round. Learning to be skeptical of one's teachers is a valuable lesson, I'd say.


It's not just history either - there's a reason the late Sir Terry Pratchett described education as "lies-to-children" - the further you get into just about any subject, the more you get used to being told "you know that thing you were taught previously? Well, actually...".

There are several reasons why this happens.

The laudable one is that you can't just start with the full form of complex ideas (like there being multiple conflicting primary accounts of any historical event and no certainty as to which actually happened, or that the position of a particle is a complex vector in space-time acting according to Schrodinger's equation) so you have to simplify things down to approximate truths ("this is what happened at Waterloo" or "you can't take the square root of a negative number").

Then there's a lag between research and education - rough rule of thumb is that it takes about 30 years for a relevant piece of research to make it onto a school syllabus.

Tying into that is that most teachers, even if they're specialists (rather than generalists or having to cover a subject they're less familiar with) mostly teach what they themselves were taught - either as children, or in more recent training - a full-time teacher doesn't have a lot of time for keeping up with the latest research.

And then you get the teacher's explicit biases, whether that's shying away from things they're not comfortable with (trying to avoid questions about what happens if you try dividing by zero), or deliberately rewriting the syllabus to suit themselves (teaching creationism in science classes).

So, yeah - what teachers tell you isn't always accurate (and what you remember of it later even less so) but it's generally a fairly solid starting point. And even the best available consensus among academics and/or direct research among primary sources and/or hands-on experimentation generally isn't the final word on something - a new source, or a new paradigm, or a new experiment, or a new theory can upset the established position (though generally the big-picture/simplified version remains approximately true - "things fall" remains a feature of every theory of gravity).

CorruptUser wrote:In this context, it was about how RMS was apparently not only not taught about Britain's crimes against humanity, but was so thoroughly mistaught that somehow Britain was the HERO in all of it. To godwins up this thread, it's the difference between Germany not covering WWII, and Germany insisting that Hitler was a good guy who loved Jews because he saved the life of his mother's Jewish doctor.

If a British teacher is ignoring the chapters where Britain committed mass atrocities, that's one thing. If the teacher is not ignoring those chapters, but intentionally rewriting them to make Britain the hero using quote mines and cherrypicking?

I'm not convinced your analogy holds - unless Hitler, having saved his mother's doctor then went on to shut down the concentration camps.

Another analogy (biased the other way) might be Oskar Schindler, who was a Nazi spy and provided intelligence used in planning the invasions of the Sudetenland and Poland in the lead-up to World War 2, and manufactured munitions throughout the war. There can be no doubt that his actions contributed to the success of the Nazi regime, and enabled various atrocities that resulted. But that's not the most widely known version of his story - if you know one thing about Herr Schindler, it's that he saved a lot of Jews.

It's not so much that I was taught that Britain was a hero for ending the slave trade, as I wasn't taught about the slave trade, but some elements came up in passing in things that were covered - like the role and duties of the Royal Navy in the 19th century.

Having had more time to dredge up quarter-century old memories, I probably learned about the British founding of Sierra Leone from meeting a Sierra Leonean folk-troupe as a teenager, rather than in formal education.

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Mar 07, 2018 4:28 pm UTC

Conspiracy theory test time!

What hypothetical evidence would convince you that the British were more responsible for slavery than for ending it?

I'm not necessarily asking for any specific, real, evidence, just hypothetical. The point is not to prove or disprove, just to see how reasonable you are being, whether or not you are consistent in your demands for evidence, etc. E.g., asking a moon-truther what sort of evidence they would accept that would prove that man went to the moon.

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Mar 07, 2018 5:45 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:But yeah, most teachers teach history that's correct...from a certain point of view. Lots of very interesting bits might get left out because they're inconvenient to a particular worldview. Not necessarily lied about or what not, just...not given space. I happened to get a home schooled education with a ridiculous amount of religion wrapped up, and they sort of left off uncomfortable bits by great christian figures throughout history. Columbus certainly got a hefty dose of image help, but say, various interactions with Native Americans got skimmed over or polished up all round. Learning to be skeptical of one's teachers is a valuable lesson, I'd say.


It's not just history either - there's a reason the late Sir Terry Pratchett described education as "lies-to-children" - the further you get into just about any subject, the more you get used to being told "you know that thing you were taught previously? Well, actually...".

There are several reasons why this happens.

The laudable one is that you can't just start with the full form of complex ideas (like there being multiple conflicting primary accounts of any historical event and no certainty as to which actually happened, or that the position of a particle is a complex vector in space-time acting according to Schrodinger's equation) so you have to simplify things down to approximate truths ("this is what happened at Waterloo" or "you can't take the square root of a negative number").

Then there's a lag between research and education - rough rule of thumb is that it takes about 30 years for a relevant piece of research to make it onto a school syllabus.

Tying into that is that most teachers, even if they're specialists (rather than generalists or having to cover a subject they're less familiar with) mostly teach what they themselves were taught - either as children, or in more recent training - a full-time teacher doesn't have a lot of time for keeping up with the latest research.

And then you get the teacher's explicit biases, whether that's shying away from things they're not comfortable with (trying to avoid questions about what happens if you try dividing by zero), or deliberately rewriting the syllabus to suit themselves (teaching creationism in science classes).

So, yeah - what teachers tell you isn't always accurate (and what you remember of it later even less so) but it's generally a fairly solid starting point. And even the best available consensus among academics and/or direct research among primary sources and/or hands-on experimentation generally isn't the final word on something - a new source, or a new paradigm, or a new experiment, or a new theory can upset the established position (though generally the big-picture/simplified version remains approximately true - "things fall" remains a feature of every theory of gravity).

Yeah but, again, no one's taking particular issue with the fact that you had a shoddy education in certain topics. We all did. The problem is that ever since your second or third post on the topic you've been defending the gaps and biases in your own education re. British slavers.
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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:03 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:In this context, it was about how RMS was apparently not only not taught about Britain's crimes against humanity, but was so thoroughly mistaught that somehow Britain was the HERO in all of it. To godwins up this thread, it's the difference between Germany not covering WWII, and Germany insisting that Hitler was a good guy who loved Jews because he saved the life of his mother's Jewish doctor.

If a British teacher is ignoring the chapters where Britain committed mass atrocities, that's one thing. If the teacher is not ignoring those chapters, but intentionally rewriting them to make Britain the hero using quote mines and cherrypicking?


A big difference between the truth and the education, to be sure, but Germany is certainly not the worst at preserving it's history, and remembering accurately the darker times. I mean, some tellings of European interactions with the Native Americans basically paint us as great heroes treating them with generosity, and getting backstabbed in return. Portraying historical actions as morally opposite to how they happened is...super common. Even just changing emphasis and focus can do a great deal of that.

rmsgrey wrote:It's not just history either - there's a reason the late Sir Terry Pratchett described education as "lies-to-children" - the further you get into just about any subject, the more you get used to being told "you know that thing you were taught previously? Well, actually...".


Oh, most certainly.

It's not so much that I was taught that Britain was a hero for ending the slave trade, as I wasn't taught about the slave trade, but some elements came up in passing in things that were covered - like the role and duties of the Royal Navy in the 19th century.


And, to be fair, the royal navy did some fine things. Almost any group that's big enough did something worth commemorating somewheres along the lines. They also did some pretty awful stuff, like pressganging in folks to work unwillingly aboard ship. Children even, at times. I mean, that alone certainly fits the definition of slavery, particularly when it happened to folks who were not themselves British(Americans, up until 1812, for instance). That's sort of a side bit from the African slave trade, but it's similar in nature, and certainly one can see how it could be pitched in wildly different lights historically.

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:35 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:What hypothetical evidence would convince you that the British were more responsible for slavery than for ending it?


I'm having trouble parsing this question.

What do you mean by "responsible for slavery"? And what do you mean by "ending slavery"? If, by the former you mean "entering into and continuing an established (and horrible) trade as the market increased", and, by the latter, you mean "freeing every slave in the Americas" then, sure, the former is more applicable to the British than the latter. If you mean "capturing, training, transporting, and owning every slave that crossed the Atlantic" and "cutting off the trade in slaves across the Atlantic" respectively then the latter is more applicable to the British than the former.

Also, what do you mean by "British"? People living in the British Isles? Every citizen of the British mainland and all colonies and territories? The white upper and upper-middle classes and/or castes of the Empire (with or without including the working classes of the British Isles)?

But, yeah, evidence that someone else stopped British slave traders from shipping slaves across the Atlantic, that someone else prevented other nations from taking up the slack, that someone else was responsible for freeing slaves everywhere British writ ran, and/or that the British diplomatic pressure on other nations to end the slave trade was ineffective would persuade me that the British were less responsible for ending the trans-Atlantic slave trade in particular, and the institution of slavery more generally.

Evidence that there wasn't already a thriving Arab slave trade, that it was the English who started the practice of shipping slaves across the Atlantic, either as transporters, or as employers of slaves in the Caribbean, or that at any point the British held a monopoly on the trans-Atlantic slave trade would persuade me that the British were more responsible for the trans-Atlantic slave trade in particular (though it would take something pretty compelling to convince me that the British were responsible for the institution of slavery in general - either that Britain (as a nation) has been around and active internationally far longer than is generally believed, or that slavery is a much more recent invention).

Tyndmyr wrote:And, to be fair, the royal navy did some fine things. Almost any group that's big enough did something worth commemorating somewheres along the lines. They also did some pretty awful stuff, like pressganging in folks to work unwillingly aboard ship. Children even, at times. I mean, that alone certainly fits the definition of slavery, particularly when it happened to folks who were not themselves British(Americans, up until 1812, for instance). That's sort of a side bit from the African slave trade, but it's similar in nature, and certainly one can see how it could be pitched in wildly different lights historically.


Apparently slave ships also used press-gangs - and deliberately recruited the sorts of people who the Navy would think twice about given the choice (if not before their first voyage, then certainly after they'd got a name for serving aboard such ships).

The Naval press gangs were an alternative to other forms of conscription, and only used during times of war when there weren't enough volunteers to be found. They suffer from all the usual moral issues with conscription, with the added complication of sometimes conscripting foreigners - something not generally practical for armies.

And people didn't seem too interested when I mentioned child labour in the coal mines...

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:52 am UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:What hypothetical evidence would convince you that the British were more responsible for slavery than for ending it?


I'm having trouble parsing this question.

What do you mean by "responsible for slavery"? And what do you mean by "ending slavery"? If, by the former you mean "entering into and continuing an established (and horrible) trade as the market increased", and, by the latter, you mean "freeing every slave in the Americas" then, sure, the former is more applicable to the British than the latter. If you mean "capturing, training, transporting, and owning every slave that crossed the Atlantic" and "cutting off the trade in slaves across the Atlantic" respectively then the latter is more applicable to the British than the former.

Also, what do you mean by "British"? People living in the British Isles? Every citizen of the British mainland and all colonies and territories? The white upper and upper-middle classes and/or castes of the Empire (with or without including the working classes of the British Isles)?

But, yeah, evidence that someone else stopped British slave traders from shipping slaves across the Atlantic, that someone else prevented other nations from taking up the slack, that someone else was responsible for freeing slaves everywhere British writ ran, and/or that the British diplomatic pressure on other nations to end the slave trade was ineffective would persuade me that the British were less responsible for ending the trans-Atlantic slave trade in particular, and the institution of slavery more generally.

Evidence that there wasn't already a thriving Arab slave trade, that it was the English who started the practice of shipping slaves across the Atlantic, either as transporters, or as employers of slaves in the Caribbean, or that at any point the British held a monopoly on the trans-Atlantic slave trade would persuade me that the British were more responsible for the trans-Atlantic slave trade in particular (though it would take something pretty compelling to convince me that the British were responsible for the institution of slavery in general - either that Britain (as a nation) has been around and active internationally far longer than is generally believed, or that slavery is a much more recent invention).


As a thought exercise, it is often useful to consider what sort of arguments would make one change their mind. As it seems you are defending the Royal Navy in this, it's useful to consider what would make you switch your opinion.

In general, if "nothing will" is the answer, then you're probably not approaching it rationally. I note that while your standard is short of this, you do set out some very tight requirements. For instance, the restriction of "transatlantic" sort of excludes

However, wikipedia lists the British as the second most common country in terms of purchasing and transporting slaves, by volume. By 1960, they were in first place. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_slave_trade

"By the late 17th century, one out of every four ships that left Liverpool harbour was a slave trading ship.[98]"

That seems, to me, like a pretty significant involvement.

Shit, one of the first jurisdictions to ban the importation of slavery was...Virginia. Not that Virginia's hands were clean, mind you. Still one helluva slave state. But Great Britain wasn't the first to ban it. You passed a law a whopping year ahead of the US as a whole, and fifteen years behind Denmark. Hardly a unilateral stop to the slave trade.

Tyndmyr wrote:And, to be fair, the royal navy did some fine things. Almost any group that's big enough did something worth commemorating somewheres along the lines. They also did some pretty awful stuff, like pressganging in folks to work unwillingly aboard ship. Children even, at times. I mean, that alone certainly fits the definition of slavery, particularly when it happened to folks who were not themselves British(Americans, up until 1812, for instance). That's sort of a side bit from the African slave trade, but it's similar in nature, and certainly one can see how it could be pitched in wildly different lights historically.


Apparently slave ships also used press-gangs - and deliberately recruited the sorts of people who the Navy would think twice about given the choice (if not before their first voyage, then certainly after they'd got a name for serving aboard such ships).

The Naval press gangs were an alternative to other forms of conscription, and only used during times of war when there weren't enough volunteers to be found. They suffer from all the usual moral issues with conscription, with the added complication of sometimes conscripting foreigners - something not generally practical for armies.

And people didn't seem too interested when I mentioned child labour in the coal mines...


I mean, it's not really that surprising that slavers didn't give two figs about individual rights, and maybe grabbed some sketchy people to work for them. I doubt you'll find anyone interesting in defending the morals of the slavers themselves.

Naval press gangs were particularly ad-hoc, and not really subject to rule of law. A great many countries have some form of conscription, but press ganging was quite brutal, particularly lacking in anything like due process, and isn't really the equivalent of every country with a draft or what not. Sure, the idea of "when your country goes to war, you suck it up and go" is common, but....often that was for a short period, and impressment wasn't really traditional for other British services at the time. The Royal Navy also used impressment for a terribly long time, even in times of peace.

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:11 am UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
And people didn't seem too interested when I mentioned child labour in the coal mines...

What people weren't interested in was your justifying the lack of acknowledgement of the British slaving industry with "but we learned about child labor and that's much more significant so it's fine we just ignored a couple million people we stole from their homes and sold into a kind of slavery the likes and scale of which the world had never seen".

rmsgrey wrote:
Evidence that there wasn't already a thriving Arab slave trade, that it was the English who started the practice of shipping slaves across the Atlantic, either as transporters, or as employers of slaves in the Caribbean, or that at any point the British held a monopoly on the trans-Atlantic slave trade would persuade me that the British were more responsible for the trans-Atlantic slave trade in particular (though it would take something pretty compelling to convince me that the British were responsible for the institution of slavery in general - either that Britain (as a nation) has been around and active internationally far longer than is generally believed, or that slavery is a much more recent invention).
You'll note that CorruptUser never said anything about British responsibility for starting slavery, so none of this paragraph is even relevant to the question. (Which in the first place was bout a comparison of Britain's role in slavery and Britain's role in ending it, not anyone else's role in either.)
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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Mar 08, 2018 6:13 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:In general, if "nothing will" is the answer, then you're probably not approaching it rationally. I note that while your standard is short of this, you do set out some very tight requirements. For instance, the restriction of "transatlantic" sort of excludes

However, wikipedia lists the British as the second most common country in terms of purchasing and transporting slaves, by volume. By 1960, they were in first place. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_slave_trade

"By the late 17th century, one out of every four ships that left Liverpool harbour was a slave trading ship.[98]"

That seems, to me, like a pretty significant involvement.

Shit, one of the first jurisdictions to ban the importation of slavery was...Virginia. Not that Virginia's hands were clean, mind you. Still one helluva slave state. But Great Britain wasn't the first to ban it. You passed a law a whopping year ahead of the US as a whole, and fifteen years behind Denmark. Hardly a unilateral stop to the slave trade.


I included the "transatlantic" qualifier as people seem to be wanting to talk about slaves of African descent in the Americas rather than, eg, slaves of European descent captured by the Barbary Pirates and shipped through Africa to the Middle East (if not ransomed back by their countrymen), or assorted kinds of slavery in the Classical period, or whatever happened historically in the Far East, etc.

wikipedia wrote:It is estimated that more than half of the entire slave trade took place during the 18th century, with the British, Portuguese and French being the main carriers of nine out of ten slaves abducted in Africa.[40] By the 1690s, the English were shipping the most slaves from West Africa.[41] They maintained this position during the 18th century, becoming the biggest shippers of slaves across the Atlantic.[42] However, it was the Portuguese colony of Angola and nearby Kingdoms in the Congo region which overwhelmingly dominated as the slave trade's main sources of slaves, with the Angola city of Luanda early serving as the main port for the Portuguese slave traders.[43] By the 18th century, Angola had become the principal source of the Atlantic slave trade.[44]

Following the British and United States' bans on the African slave trade in 1808, it declined, but the period after still accounted for 28.5% of the total volume of the Atlantic slave trade.[45]


Not the first to ban it, but the first of the big three that between them accounted (according to Wikipedia) for 90%. According to that same Wikipedia article, the US and Canada, and the territories that became the US and Canada, accounted for some 20% of the slave trade over its lifetime, while other English/British holdings accounted for a further 20%, and Portuguese colonies for 38.5% (The Danish West Indies accounted for 0.3%). Incidentally, Wikipedia lists Denmark-Norway's legislation banning the slave trade as 1802, five years, rather than fifteen. It also lists numerous later bilateral treaties banning the slave trade, with the United Kingdom and {Portugal|Spain|Netherlands|Sweden-Norway} as signatories over the next few years, and the 1815 banning of the slave trade "north of the equator" by Portugal in exchange for a £750,000 payment by Britain. Looking further, every entry in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_ ... nd_serfdom that involves more than one nation's jurisdiction includes the United Kingdom. That timeline also brings up the point that legal slavery in British India continued for a further decade after it was abolished everywhere else in the Empire (and that the shipping of African slaves to Caribbean colonies was replaced by the shipping of indentured Indians once the slaves were freed).

The United Kingdom's banning of the slave trade was unilateral in the sense that they were the only nation signatory to that bit of legislation, and that it was enacted and enforced over the protests of the African slave-trading nations.

The indentured Indians that took the place of African slave labour in the Caribbean were better off in principle - under the terms of indenture, they were entitled to a free return voyage after their term of 5-10 years, and paid a wage during that time, with conditions regulated, and, over time, additional measures put in place for their welfare (like not assigning new workers to any plantation with a mortality rate over 7%). The practice was finally abandoned in 1917, more than 70 years after slavery was finally abolished in British India, more than 80 years after it was abolished in the rest of the Empire, and 110 years after the British slave trade was outlawed.

I may not have known what I was talking about when I originally said that the worst excesses of the British Empire were in India, but I'm starting to think whoever I picked that idea up from may have had a point...

gmalivuk wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:
And people didn't seem too interested when I mentioned child labour in the coal mines...

What people weren't interested in was your justifying the lack of acknowledgement of the British slaving industry with "but we learned about child labor and that's much more significant so it's fine we just ignored a couple million people we stole from their homes and sold into a kind of slavery the likes and scale of which the world had never seen".


I still object to characterising the slave trade as Europeans stealing Africans from their homes - they were already a considerable distance from their homes by the time they reached the slave ports and entered European hands. As for the "likes and scale", the population of Italy at the height of the Roman Empire was up to 40% slaves, 2-3 million people, with the average age of death of a slave in Rome being under 18. Roughly 250,000 slaves were sold each year, with at least one recorded instance of an entire conquered region's population (53,000 people) being sold into slavery on the spot by Julius Caesar. If you have 2 million slaves living for 20 years, then that's only one century to get 10 million slaves, compared to the two centuries plus it took the trans-Atlantic slave trade to transport 10 million to the Americas. And that's just in an area less than half the size of Texas. There is a qualitative feature of African-American slavery that does set it apart historically - and that's that it was (almost entirely) along racial lines - black slaves and white masters - where the vast majority of historical slaves have been the same ethnicity as their owners - or close enough to be able to disappear into the general population. But scale? Even in absolute numbers, not unprecedented; in relation to rising world population, not exceptional.

In fact, it's estimated that currently (2008) 1.5 million people are trafficked every year - or 1.5 times the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade every decade, despite slavery being outlawed by every nation - which goes some way to illustrating the importance of looking at the total population when considering scale.

gmalivuk wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:
Evidence that there wasn't already a thriving Arab slave trade, that it was the English who started the practice of shipping slaves across the Atlantic, either as transporters, or as employers of slaves in the Caribbean, or that at any point the British held a monopoly on the trans-Atlantic slave trade would persuade me that the British were more responsible for the trans-Atlantic slave trade in particular (though it would take something pretty compelling to convince me that the British were responsible for the institution of slavery in general - either that Britain (as a nation) has been around and active internationally far longer than is generally believed, or that slavery is a much more recent invention).
You'll note that CorruptUser never said anything about British responsibility for starting slavery, so none of this paragraph is even relevant to the question. (Which in the first place was bout a comparison of Britain's role in slavery and Britain's role in ending it, not anyone else's role in either.)


He didn't ask about Britain's role in slavery, but Britain's responsibility for it - if I ask "Who is responsible for heavier-than-air flight?" people are more likely to say "The Wright Brothers" than "British Airways" (or "EasyJet" or any other airline). Britain didn't create slavery, nor the trans-Atlantic slave trade, so don't have that element of responsibility for it. We did continue it, with others, so share that responsibility. We did a lot to end it, both ending our portion of the trade (as supplier and as market), and making significant contributions (political, financial and military) to ending the portions we didn't directly control, so we have a large degree of responsibility there.

As for Britain's role in continuing slavery and our role in ending it, again, we ended our own portion and contributed to ending others', so I'd say our role in ending it is greater than our role in continuing it.

When it comes to slavery in the United States, specifically, there, I'd say our responsibility for creating and enabling it is greater than our responsibility for ending it.

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 08, 2018 6:41 am UTC

Ok, so much bullshit but I'm going to focus in on this bit.

rmsgrey wrote:I still object to characterising the slave trade as Europeans stealing Africans from their homes - they were already a considerable distance from their homes by the time they reached the slave ports and entered European hands.


Serious moral question here.

If person A knowingly doing X with person B is the reason person B does Y to person C, is there really any significant moral difference between that and person D directly doing Y to C?

For example. You knowingly buy stolen goods from a burglar, who burgled someone for those goods, and as long as you are there to buy the goods the burglar will burgle more people. Are you truly morally superior to your neighbor who cut out the middle man and just burgled someone directly?

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:05 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:I included the "transatlantic" qualifier as people seem to be wanting to talk about slaves of African descent in the Americas rather than, eg, slaves of European descent captured by the Barbary Pirates and shipped through Africa to the Middle East (if not ransomed back by their countrymen), or assorted kinds of slavery in the Classical period, or whatever happened historically in the Far East, etc.


Slavery is slavery, and I'm certainly willing to look at all the various types that existed as a problem. That said, the Barbary Pirates captured what, 10 percent of the transatlantic slave trade?


Not the first to ban it, but the first of the big three that between them accounted (according to Wikipedia) for 90%. According to that same Wikipedia article, the US and Canada, and the territories that became the US and Canada, accounted for some 20% of the slave trade over its lifetime, while other English/British holdings accounted for a further 20%, and Portuguese colonies for 38.5% (The Danish West Indies accounted for 0.3%).


That is really cherry picking to find something to be proud of. You're literally citing their volume of slavery as a factor in why they ought to be considered good. Sure, stopping slavery is great, but the fact that they enslaved so very many beforehand is...not really a point in their favor.

Incidentally, Wikipedia lists Denmark-Norway's legislation banning the slave trade as 1802, five years, rather than fifteen. It also lists numerous later bilateral treaties banning the slave trade, with the United Kingdom and {Portugal|Spain|Netherlands|Sweden-Norway} as signatories over the next few years, and the 1815 banning of the slave trade "north of the equator" by Portugal in exchange for a £750,000 payment by Britain. Looking further, every entry in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_ ... nd_serfdom that involves more than one nation's jurisdiction includes the United Kingdom. That timeline also brings up the point that legal slavery in British India continued for a further decade after it was abolished everywhere else in the Empire (and that the shipping of African slaves to Caribbean colonies was replaced by the shipping of indentured Indians once the slaves were freed).


Portugal passed the law fifteen years earlier, but it went into effect five years before. Everyone else did indeed ban it pretty much the same time that Britain did. The US had banned it as well before the UK had gotten around to enforcing their ban.

The fact that the UK was signatory to many treaties is not surprising, and is in keeping with their place as a naval power. It doesn't mean they were particularly forward-looking on slavery.

The United Kingdom's banning of the slave trade was unilateral in the sense that they were the only nation signatory to that bit of legislation, and that it was enacted and enforced over the protests of the African slave-trading nations.


But if others have done the same legislation FIRST, you've hardly decided this unilaterally. Even if other countries have not yet gotten to it.

The indentured Indians that took the place of African slave labour in the Caribbean were better off in principle - under the terms of indenture, they were entitled to a free return voyage after their term of 5-10 years, and paid a wage during that time, with conditions regulated, and, over time, additional measures put in place for their welfare (like not assigning new workers to any plantation with a mortality rate over 7%). The practice was finally abandoned in 1917, more than 70 years after slavery was finally abolished in British India, more than 80 years after it was abolished in the rest of the Empire, and 110 years after the British slave trade was outlawed.


Better conditions are good, but slavery is still, well, slavery. A 7% mortality rate, for example, still seems high.

I still object to characterising the slave trade as Europeans stealing Africans from their homes - they were already a considerable distance from their homes by the time they reached the slave ports and entered European hands. As for the "likes and scale", the population of Italy at the height of the Roman Empire was up to 40% slaves, 2-3 million people, with the average age of death of a slave in Rome being under 18. Roughly 250,000 slaves were sold each year, with at least one recorded instance of an entire conquered region's population (53,000 people) being sold into slavery on the spot by Julius Caesar. If you have 2 million slaves living for 20 years, then that's only one century to get 10 million slaves, compared to the two centuries plus it took the trans-Atlantic slave trade to transport 10 million to the Americas. And that's just in an area less than half the size of Texas. There is a qualitative feature of African-American slavery that does set it apart historically - and that's that it was (almost entirely) along racial lines - black slaves and white masters - where the vast majority of historical slaves have been the same ethnicity as their owners - or close enough to be able to disappear into the general population. But scale? Even in absolute numbers, not unprecedented; in relation to rising world population, not exceptional.


If I pay someone to steal ya from your home, I still bear moral responsibility for that. If you're buying slaves in Africa, then yeah, you've got responsibility for increasing slavery. Sure, a bit of slavery might have existed otherwise, but the sheer scale at which it happened is a result of buyers existing. Demand creates a market. This is like claiming no responsibility for killing someone, because you hired a hitman. Uuuuh, no.

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:40 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:According to that same Wikipedia article, the US and Canada, and the territories that became the US and Canada, accounted for some 20% of the slave trade over its lifetime, while other English/British holdings accounted for a further 20%, and Portuguese colonies for 38.5% (The Danish West Indies accounted for 0.3%).
So Britain and its colonies were responsible for more of the slave trade than any other nation.

I still object to characterising the slave trade as Europeans stealing Africans from their homes - they were already a considerable distance from their homes by the time they reached the slave ports and entered European hands.
Prior to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, most African slaves were held by people with familial or clan or at least tribal ties to the slave. They generally spoke or at least knew the same language and had related cultures.

Trading them away to people who didn't know much less care about any of that, and who had no intention of letting a slave's children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren be free, was new.

As for the "likes and scale", the population of Italy at the height of the Roman Empire was up to 40% slaves, 2-3 million people, with the average age of death of a slave in Rome being under 18. Roughly 250,000 slaves were sold each year, with at least one recorded instance of an entire conquered region's population (53,000 people) being sold into slavery on the spot by Julius Caesar. If you have 2 million slaves living for 20 years, then that's only one century to get 10 million slaves, compared to the two centuries plus it took the trans-Atlantic slave trade to transport 10 million to the Americas. And that's just in an area less than half the size of Texas. There is a qualitative feature of African-American slavery that does set it apart historically - and that's that it was (almost entirely) along racial lines - black slaves and white masters - where the vast majority of historical slaves have been the same ethnicity as their owners - or close enough to be able to disappear into the general population. But scale? Even in absolute numbers, not unprecedented; in relation to rising world population, not exceptional.
Again, slavery as practiced before the advent of trans-Atlantic chattel slavery was not the same institution.

Also, you're comparing slaves held in Rome with slaves transported from Africa. The correct comparison would be how many lived as slaves in the Americas (or how many were transported to Italy to be slaves).

In fact, it's estimated that currently (2008) 1.5 million people are trafficked every year - or 1.5 times the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade every decade, despite slavery being outlawed by every nation - which goes some way to illustrating the importance of looking at the total population when considering scale.
The total population which is now about six times higher worldwide than it was in 1850, you mean? Also it seems a bit shitty of you to ignore the millions who died in the Middle Passage when you round down to "just" 10 million.

And "trafficked" is again the wrong thing to compare to the number transported as slaves. Saves continued to be trafficked within the colonies every time they were bought or sold or transferred to new owners, not just when they were taken from Africa. Also as bad as slavery is today and always has been, it's my understanding that it is once again rare (as it was before trans-Atlantic chattel slavery) for people's families to be enslaved in perpetuity.

gmalivuk wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:
Evidence that there wasn't already a thriving Arab slave trade, that it was the English who started the practice of shipping slaves across the Atlantic, either as transporters, or as employers of slaves in the Caribbean, or that at any point the British held a monopoly on the trans-Atlantic slave trade would persuade me that the British were more responsible for the trans-Atlantic slave trade in particular (though it would take something pretty compelling to convince me that the British were responsible for the institution of slavery in general - either that Britain (as a nation) has been around and active internationally far longer than is generally believed, or that slavery is a much more recent invention).
You'll note that CorruptUser never said anything about British responsibility for starting slavery, so none of this paragraph is even relevant to the question. (Which in the first place was bout a comparison of Britain's role in slavery and Britain's role in ending it, not anyone else's role in either.)


He didn't ask about Britain's role in slavery, but Britain's responsibility for it - if I ask "Who is responsible for heavier-than-air flight?" people are more likely to say "The Wright Brothers" than "British Airways" (or "EasyJet" or any other airline).[/quote]If I ask "who is responsible for air travel as an industry and an institution", the only people who would say "the Wright Brothers" are assholes trying to score some kind of pedant points.

We did continue it, with others, so share that responsibility.
You continued it more than others, remember, according to your own above-quoted numbers.

We did a lot to end it, both ending our portion of the trade (as supplier and as market), and making significant contributions (political, financial and military) to ending the portions we didn't directly control, so we have a large degree of responsibility there.
If you're going to absolve Britain of "responsibility for slavery" because they didn't invent it first, then you can't take credit for much of ending it because you weren't the first to do that, either.

As for Britain's role in continuing slavery and our role in ending it, again, we ended our own portion and contributed to ending others', so I'd say our role in ending it is greater than our role in continuing it.
You also started your own portion and contributed to continuing others', so I'd say you have no basis for saying that.

Edit: Continuing others' even for decades after "ending your own portion", remember. Britain was still happy to get 80% of its cotton from slave plantations even half a century after you (and the US) stopped transporting new slaves from Africa.
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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 08, 2018 5:03 pm UTC

Minor nitpicks.

In Old World slavery, the male slaves rarely had wives/children (though it did happen) and the female slaves had children from their masters or other members of his household. So as for why the children of slaves weren't also slaves...

Slaves in the 13 colonies were usually taken from the Caribbean, not Africa directly. The Caribbean was generally far wealthier than the colonies, and before the cotton gin made cotton cheap enough to be worth growing it was sugar that made the big bucks. Of course, this does not absolve the US of responsibility for slavery. In terms of ethnicity, there's really little difference between Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean.

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Mar 08, 2018 8:56 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:According to that same Wikipedia article, the US and Canada, and the territories that became the US and Canada, accounted for some 20% of the slave trade over its lifetime, while other English/British holdings accounted for a further 20%, and Portuguese colonies for 38.5% (The Danish West Indies accounted for 0.3%).
So Britain and its colonies were responsible for more of the slave trade than any other nation.


Well, about half the slaves that went to the US and Canada went to territory colonised by France rather than Britain. Make of that what you will.

gmalivuk wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:I still object to characterising the slave trade as Europeans stealing Africans from their homes - they were already a considerable distance from their homes by the time they reached the slave ports and entered European hands.
Prior to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, most African slaves were held by people with familial or clan or at least tribal ties to the slave. They generally spoke or at least knew the same language and had related cultures.

Trading them away to people who didn't know much less care about any of that, and who had no intention of letting a slave's children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren be free, was new.


Aside from (for example) the Arab slave trade - taking Africans out of Africa from the ninth century through to the early twentieth century (some of their descendants still live in the Middle East).

Tyndmyr wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:The indentured Indians that took the place of African slave labour in the Caribbean were better off in principle - under the terms of indenture, they were entitled to a free return voyage after their term of 5-10 years, and paid a wage during that time, with conditions regulated, and, over time, additional measures put in place for their welfare (like not assigning new workers to any plantation with a mortality rate over 7%). The practice was finally abandoned in 1917, more than 70 years after slavery was finally abolished in British India, more than 80 years after it was abolished in the rest of the Empire, and 110 years after the British slave trade was outlawed.


Better conditions are good, but slavery is still, well, slavery. A 7% mortality rate, for example, still seems high.

Yeah, I probably shouldn't attempt irony at 6am after spending hours poring over data - the "better off in principle" was meant to be a marker for that.

If I pay someone to steal ya from your home, I still bear moral responsibility for that. If you're buying slaves in Africa, then yeah, you've got responsibility for increasing slavery. Sure, a bit of slavery might have existed otherwise, but the sheer scale at which it happened is a result of buyers existing. Demand creates a market. This is like claiming no responsibility for killing someone, because you hired a hitman. Uuuuh, no.


There's a reason why "receiving stolen goods" and "conspiracy to commit robbery" are specific crimes rather than just being included as forms of the one crime of robbery. Or, more directly, the difference between kidnapping and trafficking as separate crimes. And responsibility isn't binary. It's not that either you're maximally responsible for something, or you're totally innocent; there are degrees and nuances.

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 08, 2018 9:04 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:There's a reason why "receiving stolen goods" and "conspiracy to commit robbery" are specific crimes rather than just being included as forms of the one crime of robbery. Or, more directly, the difference between kidnapping and trafficking as separate crimes. And responsibility isn't binary. It's not that either you're maximally responsible for something, or you're totally innocent; there are degrees and nuances.


Legally, yes, but morally and ethically?

Once again, please answer my question.

Scenario 1: Alice performs immoral act X, knowing it will cause Bob to do immoral act Y to Charlie
Scenario 2: Alive performs immoral act X and does immoral act Y on Charlie directly

Is scenario 1 or 2 morally superior, or are they equivalent?

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:26 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:There's a reason why "receiving stolen goods" and "conspiracy to commit robbery" are specific crimes rather than just being included as forms of the one crime of robbery. Or, more directly, the difference between kidnapping and trafficking as separate crimes. And responsibility isn't binary. It's not that either you're maximally responsible for something, or you're totally innocent; there are degrees and nuances.


Legally, yes, but morally and ethically?

Once again, please answer my question.

Scenario 1: Alice performs immoral act X, knowing it will cause Bob to do immoral act Y to Charlie
Scenario 2: Alive performs immoral act X and does immoral act Y on Charlie directly

Is scenario 1 or 2 morally superior, or are they equivalent?

Neither is moral, and there are circumstances where either could be worse, but, in general, I'd say that scenario 1 is less bad (on Alice's part) - to argue otherwise is to deny Bob any agency in the matter.

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby Zohar » Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:51 pm UTC

You're describing this as if the total punishment allowed for a crime is always capped and distributed between the people responsible for it. That is not the case. Alice and Bob can both get a life sentence (if the immoral act Y is bad enough).
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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 08, 2018 11:33 pm UTC

@Zohar

Me, or rms?

Oh and slight correction, is Alice's actions less more moral in scenario 1 or 2, or is it basically the same?

Because personally, I don't see a tangible difference in Alice's morality. Alice buys from Bob burglar, she knows the burglar only steals from Charlie because she is willing to buy, so I posit that she would be no less despicable had she simply robbed Charlie directly. Prostitution, child porn, drugs, stolen goods, organs, endangered animal parts; if you purchase these things, you cause more to be 'procured', and you aren't better than the guy procuring them. In some ways, you are worse.

If Alice buys Charlie from Bob, she is just as guilty as Bob is. Had Alice not been there, Bob wouldn't have kidnapped Charlie in the first place. The whole "well, the Africans kidnapped the people in the first place!" argument is not an argument that Britain was less terrible, only that other people were terrible too, so it's a bit of a distraction.

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:16 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:According to that same Wikipedia article, the US and Canada, and the territories that became the US and Canada, accounted for some 20% of the slave trade over its lifetime, while other English/British holdings accounted for a further 20%, and Portuguese colonies for 38.5% (The Danish West Indies accounted for 0.3%).
So Britain and its colonies were responsible for more of the slave trade than any other nation.


I'd give Portugal a pretty hefty share of the blame as well. Depending on how we slice it out(maybe keeping the US separate), we can maaaybe get Britain down to "second worst".

That's pretty generous, and it still doesn't frame Britain in a great light.

They didn't invent slavery. They didn't abolish it. They did an awful lot of it for a pretty fair bit of time. This doesn't seem that different from, say, the US, and at least nowadays, all but the craziest alt-right nutters have accepted that US slavery is an ugly chapter in history, and the country certainly bears moral responsibility for that.

CorruptUser wrote:Minor nitpicks.

In Old World slavery, the male slaves rarely had wives/children (though it did happen) and the female slaves had children from their masters or other members of his household. So as for why the children of slaves weren't also slaves...


That happened sometimes in the New World as well. Plenty of kids in the new world who were the kid of the master/another non-slave, but still ended up as slaves anyways. I agree that the social nature of the two differed, though. Not a lot of slaving institutions were good by any ethical standard, but chattel slavery managed to hit some pretty bad lows.

Zohar wrote:You're describing this as if the total punishment allowed for a crime is always capped and distributed between the people responsible for it. That is not the case. Alice and Bob can both get a life sentence (if the immoral act Y is bad enough).


Indeed. Murder, for instance. If I hire an assassin to kill Bob, and we are caught after the fact, both the assassin and I will be charged with murder. Possibly additional charges as well, thanks to the conspiring! I'm not considered LESS guilty because I went and got an assassin.

Given that slavery in this time did involve quite a lot of death, this is a far, far closer example than "stolen goods".

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby Zohar » Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:18 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:@Zohar

Me, or rms?

rms. In general when I post immediately after the person I respond to, I don't bother quoting them. This may not be the best policy.
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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby Mutex » Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:33 pm UTC

I do the same.

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Mar 09, 2018 6:45 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:According to that same Wikipedia article, the US and Canada, and the territories that became the US and Canada, accounted for some 20% of the slave trade over its lifetime, while other English/British holdings accounted for a further 20%, and Portuguese colonies for 38.5% (The Danish West Indies accounted for 0.3%).
So Britain and its colonies were responsible for more of the slave trade than any other nation.
I'd give Portugal a pretty hefty share of the blame as well.
Oh, for sure. I would have thought Portugal was in first place, until rmsgrey helpfully shared these statistics that put Britain (and its colonies) a bit ahead of Portugal (and its colonies).
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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby rmsgrey » Fri Mar 09, 2018 9:37 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:According to that same Wikipedia article, the US and Canada, and the territories that became the US and Canada, accounted for some 20% of the slave trade over its lifetime, while other English/British holdings accounted for a further 20%, and Portuguese colonies for 38.5% (The Danish West Indies accounted for 0.3%).
So Britain and its colonies were responsible for more of the slave trade than any other nation.
I'd give Portugal a pretty hefty share of the blame as well.
Oh, for sure. I would have thought Portugal was in first place, until rmsgrey helpfully shared these statistics that put Britain (and its colonies) a bit ahead of Portugal (and its colonies).


Only if you include the formerly French portions of US/Canada in the total (which account for about the same as the English colonies). I did post a clarification in my last reply, but that may have been missed.

It was 10% to British colonies in North America and 10% to French colonies in North America (and those states after independence).

If you want to blame Britain for, eg, the New Orleans slave trade when that city was either French or Spanish until the Louisiana Purchase, you might as well blame Britain for every slave shipped across the Atlantic - after all, Britain didn't do anything to stop anyone else from shipping slaves all the way up to until 1807, despite having one of, if not the world's best navy during that time.

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Re: ITT: rmsgrey is wrong about slavery (from Black Panther)

Postby Grop » Fri Mar 09, 2018 10:05 pm UTC

Incidentally, I am pretty sure this is taught in French high schools. Or was when I was there. Also what people have been taught and what they actually remember may differ (to be fair to British teachers).


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