Slavery has often been seen as a contract between a master and his slave. Where the slave enters into such contract with the master in exchange for a certain sum or waver.
Dr Jonathan Brown points out that earlier, in the 15th century Moscow, what scholars termed as limited service contracts, in such a contract, as person asks someone wealthy for a loan for a year at which point the person will pay them back and will also work for them in the meantime instead of paying interest. If the borrower cannot pay back the creditor in a year, the borrower becomes their slave, most often, they became a lifetime slave. This type of slavery replaced all other forms of slavery in Russia. At this point, indentured servants also existed in Russia at the same time, differing only in the way that indentured servants could not be harmed by their master in any form. Bonded labor or serfs, who might think of slaves as people with no right of legal protection was often true. In Ming China, slaves were often referred to as “Folks not human”, not only could they not own property, marry or have legitimate children, but killing one of them posed no legal problem.
In the current Indonesia, someone who has been convicted of a capital crime could have one of his slaves executed instead of himself. In the 1800s Carolina, declared that slaves could invoke neither civil nor common law, for the law of the slaves was whatever the master said.
Dr Jonathan Brown in his lecture – Jonathan Brown Slavery explains that the legal realities associated with slavery were not only complicated, but so were the social realities. In Roman law, slaves were conceptualized as people with no rights, since they were in theory prisoners of war who has been spared execution, they were legally dead anyway. During the first century B.C, there was no legal restriction of the master’s treatment of the slaves. This was not different from the power that the head of the family enjoyed, who had a life or death right over every member of his family.
In theory, slaves in spite of getting into slavery by choice, had no choice over his treatment.