Slavery is the practice of owning sapient beings as property. On Earth this practice was largely abolished in the 19th century. Slaves have historically been employed for many purposes, including as soldiers (such as Egyptian Mamluks and Ottoman Janissaries) and even high ranking government officials (the Ottoman Empire made extensive use of these as did certain Roman emperors), but slaves have mostly been used as domestic servants and basic laborers. Fine details about slavery have varied from culture to culture; for example, slavery in European colonies of the 16th to mid-19th centuries was characterized by a racist belief that black people were fit to be enslaved, a preconception which did not exist in (among other states) the Roman Empire.
The term is used informally to refer to other situations in which people are forced to work very hard under heavy control by higher-ranking figures without compensation in conditions that are comparable to slavery, even though the people involved are not classified as property (such as serfdom in Tsarist Russia before 1861, victims of human trafficking, or various forced labor programs employed by the Nazis involving eastern Europeans (Zwangsarbeiter)).
Slavery in science fiction
- In Star Wars, slavery existed in several backwater regions of the Galaxy, such as Tatooine. Slavery was also practiced by the Galactic Empire, most notably in the enslavement of Wookiees as well as other non-human species.
- In Stargate, the Goa'uld kept vast populations of humans in slavery or serfdom, although oversight was often lax. The Wraith also kept human beings as slaves, serving as personal attendants, albeit on a smaller scale.
- In Star Trek, a few factions practice slavery, most notably the Orion Pirates.
- In Mass Effect, the Batarians keep slaves and consider the Citadel Council's anti-slavery policy an attack on their culture.
- In SM Stirling's Domination of the Draka series of alternate history novels, 90% of the population of the Domination are slaves.