“A lucid and compelling account of the slave experience in a region long ignored by historians of slavery…. [It is] a valuable case study that underscores the need for historians to pay closer attention to the ways in which environmental factors shaped the slave experience in various parts of the world.”
Richard B. Allen, author of European Slave Trading in the Indian Ocean, 1500–1850
“Reilly’s valuable book is a rare environmental and medical history of the Arabian Peninsula, which fills a gap in the literature. This study will benefit not only specialists in environmental history but also students and researchers of the history of medicine and technology.”
Canadian Journal of History
“Reilly's valuable book is a rare environmental and medical history of the Arabian Peninsula, which fills a gap in the literature. This study will benefit not only specialists in environmental history but also students and researchers of the history of medicine and technology.”
Canadian Journal of History
“Reilly has been particularly resourceful in drawing upon diverse disciplines and datasets. The result is a bold, stimulating study that will hopefully provoke furth scholarly engagement with this important topic.”
International Journal of Archaeology and Social Sciences in the Arabian Peninsula
In Slavery, Agriculture, and Malaria in the Arabian Peninsula, Benjamin Reilly illuminates a previously unstudied phenomenon: the large-scale employment of people of African ancestry as slaves in agricultural oases within the Arabian Peninsula. The key to understanding this unusual system, Reilly argues, is the prevalence of malaria within Arabian Peninsula oases and drainage basins, which rendered agricultural lands in Arabia extremely unhealthy for people without genetic or acquired resistance to malarial fevers. In this way, Arabian slave agriculture had unexpected similarities to slavery as practiced in the Caribbean and Brazil.
This book synthesizes for the first time a body of historical and ethnographic data about slave-based agriculture in the Arabian Peninsula. Reilly uses an innovative methodology to analyze the limited historical record and a multidisciplinary approach to complicate our understandings of the nature of work in an area that is popularly thought of solely as desert. This work makes significant contributions both to the global literature on slavery and to the environmental history of the Middle East—an area that has thus far received little attention from scholars.
Benjamin Reilly is an associate teaching professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University’s Qatar campus. He is the author of Disaster and Human History: Case Studies in Nature, Society and Catastrophe and Tropical Surge: A History of Ambition and Disaster on the Florida Shore. More info →
Questions for DiscussionDownload
“The goal of this book is to describe, in as much detail as the sources permit, a system of slave and servile agricultural labor, employing mainly sub-Saharan africans, which prevailed in the traditional arabian Penin- sola.…”
— Table of Contents and Introduction
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Malaria is an infectious disease like no other: it is a dynamic force of nature and Africa’s most deadly and debilitating malady. James C. McCann tells the story of malaria in human, narrative terms and explains the history and ecology of the disease through the science of landscape change. All malaria is local.
Tales of deforestation and desertification in North Africa have been told from the Roman period to the present. Such stories of environmental decline in the Maghreb are still recounted by experts and are widely accepted without question today. International organizations such as the United Nations frequently invoke these inaccurate stories to justify environmental conservation and development projects in the arid and semiarid lands in North Africa and around the Mediterranean basin.
Environmental Imaginaries of the Middle East and North Africa
Edited by Diana K. Davis and Edmund Burke III
· Afterword by Timothy Mitchell
The landscapes of the Middle East have captured our imaginations throughout history. Images of endless golden dunes, camel caravans, isolated desert oases, and rivers lined with palm trees have often framed written and visual representations of the region. Embedded in these portrayals is the common belief that the environment, in most places, has been deforested and desertified by centuries of misuse.
Between 1500 and 1850, European traders shipped hundreds of thousands of African, Indian, Malagasy, and Southeast Asian slaves to ports throughout the Indian Ocean world. The activities of the British, Dutch, French, and Portuguese traders who operated in the Indian Ocean demonstrate that European slave trading was not confined largely to the Atlantic but must now be viewed as a truly global phenomenon.
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