Guasco’s study reframes the history of English slaveholding by placing it in the context of human bondage in the early modern English world. Bondage and slavery were, he argues, familiar as ideas and experiences to Englishmen of the period: The early development of slavery does not represent a radical shift but an adaptation of existing models and experiences.

Guasco builds his argument across six chapters. The first chapter maintains that the English were familiar with slavery through the Bible and Protestant theology, through the history and laws of Rome as taught in England’s grammar schools and universities, and through narratives of English history that identified conquerors—Danes or Normans—as enslaving the English. Furthermore, serfdom continued to limit the freedom of a significant number of English men and women during the sixteenth century, and...

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