Teacher Lesson Ideas

Slavery vs. Serfdom: Comparing and Contrasting Quality of Life

This lesson compares feudalism in Europe of the Middle Ages to plantation slavery of the American South.  Students compare the lives of serfs and slaves.  To read more about comparing these two types of labor systems, see Peter Kolchin, Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom. (Harvard University Press, 1987).  Kolchin argues that Russian serfs generally had more autonomy than American slaves, since serfs had less interaction with their masters, who were often absentee landlords.  However, American slaves were typically more individualistic, and they showed more solidarity as a group.

Deana Mullinax
Tanglewood Middle
2003 Upstate Institute

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