Its inordinate reliance on the published works of David Brion Davis betrays the fact that this book had its genesis in a series of lectures at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery at Yale University. Davis investigated the problem of slavery over the past two millennia. In four relatively short but exceedingly convoluted chapters, Joseph C. Miller reviews some 22,000 years of human history to make a great number of questionable assertions. The titles of the chapters illustrate the trajectory of the argument: “The Problem of Slavery as History,” “History as a Problem of Slaving,” “Slavery and History as Problems in Africa,” and “Problematizing Slavery in the Americas as History.”

In the first chapter Miller decries the conventional academic view of slavery as an institution, indicating that such a position freezes views of slavery across time and space and thereby...

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