The independent London newspaper

The Romans had slaves and slavery is still with us today

15 June, 2017

• ONCE again we are beginning to accept slavery in our society. In hospital I have seen how nurses are expected to work.

They have a night and day shift of 12 hours. They then have to travel to their flats by train or bus because there are insufficient homes near the hospital. If they have children they hardly see them.

It is outrageous that they are now expected to pay for their training and be plunged into debt like our miserable university students. Part of that training is inevitably held in the hospital, learning how to make beds, take blood pressure, distribute medicine, clean patients etc.

Another form of slavery that we have come to accept is that of the gang labour of East Anglia and Kent. This slavery is far worse than the conditions of Roman agricultural slaves of the 1st century AD. They are dragged around fields on metal contraptions all day to plant seedlings or pick strawberries or box apples.

If they don’t box enough apples in an hour they are sacked. And at the end of the season they are shown the door of the polythene tents. British farmers pretend to be pro Brexit but are worried that without gangs they will face financial disaster unless supermarkets double the price of their products.

Cato and Varro, two Roman landowners of 40AD, describe the treatment of slaves, how they were issued with a tunic and clogs and bread and cheese and wine in proportion to the hardness of their work and, in order to keep them happy, were given good looking female companions, which resulted, in time, in a free supply of slaves. We have not come far from 40AD.

South Hill Park Gardens, NW3


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