Orlando Patterson honored by historians

September 12, 2017
On Human Bondage

Wiley Blackwell has recently published a book, On Human Bondage: After Slavery and Social Death, edited by two of the nation’s most eminent historians of antiquity, that assesses the impact of Orlando Patterson's  work, Slavery and Social Death, on ancient, and comparative cultural and historical studies.  

This is the first time that a living sociologist’s work has been so honored by historians of classical antiquity and comparative historical studies. The work grew out of two earlier conferences of ancient and comparative historians devoted to Patterson'ds work. 

From the Back Cover

A critical reexamination of Orlando Patterson’s groundbreaking Slavery and Social Death, On Human Bondage assesses how his theories have stood the test of time and applies them to new case studies. More than 35 years after the publication of Patterson’s landmark work, these essays discuss his ideas of social death and natal alienation, as he first presented them and as they have come to be understood today.

The essays bring together exciting new work by a group of esteemed historians of slavery, based on two conferences devoted to understanding the impact of Patterson’s cross-cultural work. They provide insights into slave societies around the world and across time, from classical Greece and Rome to modern Brazil and the Caribbean, and from Han China and pre-colonial South Asia to early modern Europe and the New World. The essays delve into a wide range of topics, including the reformation of social identity after slavery, the new historicist approach to slavery, rituals of enslavement and servitude, questions of honor and dishonor, and symbolic imagery of slavery. In addition, a final chapter by Patterson himself responds to the other contributions and advances his own thinking on concepts of property as they relate to slavery; the special connections between women and slavery; and the metaphors of social death and rebirth as dynamic conceptions of slavery and manumission. This collection not only celebrates but also critiques and extends Orlando Patterson’s work, a landmark study of slavery that continues to inspire and provoke debate.


About the Editors:

John Bodel is W. Duncan MacMillan II Professor of Classics and Professor of History at Brown University, USA. He studies ancient Roman history and Latin literature and has special interests in epigraphy, slavery in antiquity, Roman religion, funerals and burial customs, writing systems, and the ancient novel.


Walter Scheidel is the Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History, and a Kennedy‐Grossman Fellow in Human Biology at Stanford University, USA. He has published widely on ancient social and economic history, premodern demography, and the comparative history of labor and state formation.