The Good Master

Richard Alston

in Ancient Slavery and Abolition

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199574674
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728723 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

The Good Master

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This chapter discusses the differences between Early Modern intellectuals’ treatments of slavery and those in the Classical writers to whom they turned for enlightenment. Using the ‘gentleman farmer’ Pliny the Younger as a key text, the comparison demonstrates disjunctures between Classical and Early Modern notions of the person and of freedom that produced radically different understandings of slavery. Nevertheless, Atlantic slavery annexed some of the prestige of paternalism and Classicism, but precisely because paternalism is incompatible with the capitalistic mind-set, and paternalisms are generated often as conservative attempts to ‘soften’ inequalities or ‘restore’ archaic and often mythic social values and communal spirit, it did not represent a viable intellectual-political framework by which to maintain slavery. The debates around Abolitionism were between the forms of capitalism, but without obviously being competitive in a narrowly economic sphere.

Keywords: Pliny; Hobbes; capitalism; paternalism; ideology; slavery

Chapter.  9544 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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