Young boy in Vietnam looking over a bridge where those vulnerable to human trafficking sleep

Researching and understanding slavery before the Transatlantic Slave Trade offers insights into a much older and globally diverse practice of enslavement. Here are ten significant books that delve into various aspects of slavery across different cultures and eras prior to the Transatlantic Slave Trade:

Depiction of captives or slaves from a war, shown being led with ropes tied around their necks, in a relief dating back to the late 12th or 13th century. This artwork is located in the Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom, Cambodia, as seen in an image featured on History Today’s National Gallery of Cambodia (


  1. “Slavery in the Ancient Near East” by Isaac Mendelsohn**: This book provides a detailed study of slavery in early civilizations like Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria, offering insights into the roles and lives of slaves in these societies.


  1. “Slavery in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia” by William Linn Westermann**: A comprehensive overview of slavery in two of the earliest civilizations, focusing on the legal, economic, and social aspects of slavery.


  1. “Greek and Roman Slavery” by Thomas Wiedemann**: This book offers a comparative study of slavery in ancient Greece and Rome, providing a nuanced understanding of the role and treatment of slaves in classical antiquity.


  1. “Slavery in the Roman World” by Sandra R. Joshel**: Joshel examines the institution of slavery in Roman society, discussing various aspects such as the acquisition, use, and emancipation of slaves.


  1. “Slave Systems of Greek and Roman Antiquity” by William L. Westermann**: An in-depth historical analysis of the slave systems in ancient Greece and Rome, exploring the economic, social, and legal dimensions of slavery in these cultures.


6.*”The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture” by David Brion Davis**: While not exclusively focused on pre-Transatlantic slavery, this book provides crucial context for understanding the cultural and intellectual roots of slavery in Western societies.


  1. “Bondmen and Rebels: A Study of Master-Slave Relations in Antigua” by David Barry Gaspar**: This book, though focusing on a later period, offers valuable insights into the nature of master-slave relations that can be applied to earlier forms of slavery.


  1. “Slavery in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia” by William D. Phillips Jr.**: This book explores the history of slavery in the Iberian Peninsula before the rise of the Atlantic slave trade, highlighting the diversity of slave experiences in medieval and early modern Spain and Portugal.


  1. “The Cambridge World History of Slavery: Volume 1, The Ancient Mediterranean World” edited by Keith Bradley and Paul Cartledge**: This volume provides an extensive overview of slavery in the ancient Mediterranean, covering various civilizations and periods.


  1. “Early Slavery at the Cape of Good Hope, 1652-1717” by Karel Schoeman**: This book offers an exploration of slavery in the early Dutch Cape Colony before the establishment of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, providing a different geographical perspective.


These books collectively offer a broad and detailed examination of slavery in various ancient and medieval societies, illustrating the complexity and ubiquity of the institution long before the advent of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.