Seymour Drescher and Paul Finkelman
This chapter discusses the international law elements of slavery; anti-slavery and abolitionism; abolition and international law; civilization; international law and anti-slavery; and postwar events. Over the course of the past five centuries, slavery and the slave trade have played a major role in the formation and transformation of international law. Identified in antiquity as a consensual institution of the law of nations, slavery’s standing in legal discourse was slowly modified. During four centuries after 1450, some of Europe’s metropolises began to identify themselves as lands where the ius gentium’s generic verdict on slavery no longer applied. Within a century after the outbreak of the Atlantic revolutions, the empires of slavery had become empires of anti-slavery. In international law, anti-slavery was now the gold standard of civilization. In the wake of the First World War, slavery seemed to be a vanishing institution.