Segal, who wrote this to supplement his The Black Diaspora, is a cultural historian, not a specialist in Islamic history. He is an authority on the subject of Black slavery. His expertise in this area and his careful use of sources (he includes many quotes from original chroniclers) make this a competent and enlightening work. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Designed as a companion volume to Segal's The Black Diaspora, which traced the movements of blacks in the Western Hemisphere from the Atlantic slave trade to the present, this book undertakes the formidable task of recounting the dispersion of black Africans in Asia and the Middle East, most of which was forced by the Islamic slave trade. "In Islam, slavery was never the moral, political, and economic issue that it was in the West, so there are fewer sources about its history," notes Segal, the founding editor of the Penguin African Library and the author of 14 other books. Still, he pieces together a compelling drama of conquests and conversions, beginning with an illuminating chapter about the differences between the Atlantic and Islamic trades: the Islamic trade began some eight centuries before the Atlantic one, and preferred women slaves over men. His account then moves from early Islam, when laws did not subject slaves to any special racial discrimination, into the 19th century, when the process of enslaving blacks came to involve violence and brutality on a gigantic scale. Segal also discusses the extension of the Islamic trade into China, India and Spain, the role of the Ottoman Empire, slavery in Iran and Libya, and the effect of European colonization, which he argues "preserved the force if not the face of old subjugations." A preliminary dig in a little-explored area, this book has a rough-hewn quality about it; scholars may find it too general, even if it provides seeds for further study. General readers, however, will find much that is new, particularly in the early chapters, where Segal trains his eye on the part slaves played in the development of the high civilization attained by imperial Islam. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.