Historically, the institution of slavery was the focus of a great deal of philosophical research. Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Mill, Wollstonecraft, Bentham, Locke, Rousseau, Paine, Wilberforce, Grotius, Pufendorf, Nietzsche, Marx, and many others, considered such topics as the definition of slavery, the rightness or wrongness of slavery, which sorts of people could or should be enslaved, and whether (and if so, when) they should be emancipated. In recent years, by contrast, philosophers have shown little interest in slavery. Yet they have nonetheless produced a plethora of work on related topics, such as freedom and equality. This is not because slavery is no longer with us; indeed, according to some accounts there are more slaves now than at any other time in history. Given that 2013 marks the 175th anniversary of the final emancipation of all enslaved persons in the British Empire, this seems an appropriate time to renew our philosophical focus on slavery and on those who enslave and are enslaved.
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