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What were the legal and practical differences between say a Russian or Hungarian serf in the 18th century and an American Slave at the same time?

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    In theory, serfdom is a part of social contract, whereas slavery is a suspension of one's rights, either permanently or temporarily, legitimately or illegitimately. Aug 3 '16 at 15:21
  • An exception to the above is that "fair" imprisonment or mandatory community service, as administered legally for the remittance of crimes, is not usually considered slavery. Of course, "fair" is subjective. Aug 3 '16 at 15:26
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    Serfs are bound to the land; slaves are bound to an owner. Serfs may have some degree of civil rights or customary prerogatives. Slaves are chattel; since they are not recognized as human, they cannot have rights. For more details, you'll have to check Russian/Hungarian law. The one sentence summary is that American Slavery is one of the most dehumanizing, most reprehensible regime's in human history; serfdom is merely bad.
    – MCW
    Aug 3 '16 at 15:50
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    Yes, American Slavery was a particularly atrocious bout of slavery in the historical record on many counts, not the least of which was the fact that it was racially based. Also, I was going to make the same comment about being bound to the land versus the owner, but I wanted to keep my comments brief since I wasn't prepared to answer in full. Aug 3 '16 at 16:21
  • @TomAu Hm, that is about the 19th century rather than the 18th century, but I'm not sure how productive it is to have a question for each. Aug 3 '16 at 17:12