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UNIT 14: Land and Labor Relationships

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VIDEO SEGMENT: Islamic Southeast Asia

This video segment explores slavery as it developed in Southeast Asia between 1000 and 1700 CE. Unlike in tsarist Russia, farm laborers in Southeast Asia were free. Instead, slavery was common only in mercantile city-states, where the possession of slaves was an important symbol of noble power and prestige.

In these city-states, slaves were not agricultural workers but were domestic servants, entertainers, and commodity producers. Kings and nobles often fought for control of slave labor in city-states. Through the system of corvée labor, kings sought to conscript slaves for work on state projects, while nobles sought to retain their slaves' labor for their own uses. As in Russian serfdom, the important difference between master and slave was based not on ethnicity but on whether one performed manual labor.

Southeast Asian slavery differed from Atlantic slavery in that slaves could become junior members of their owner's family, and could even be assimilated into kinship networks through marriage or conversion to Islam. Moreover, owners were supposed to provide adequately for their slaves.

Once Constantinople fell to Muslim rule in 1453, the trade routes that brought slaves to the Islamic world — including Southeast Asia — expanded. At the same time, however, this Muslim conquest prompted the Spanish and the Portuguese to try to find ways around Muslim-controlled sea-lanes, sailing around the Horn of Africa and west across the Atlantic.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Anonymous, ANGKOR WAT: SUNRISE (n.d.). Copyright Peter Langer, Associated Media Group

Anonymous, BAYON RELIEF (n.d.). Courtesy of Linda Walton.



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