First, before we start, let me say that I do not in any way, shape or form support or condone slavery or even ill-paid work. This question rationale is just for the sake of storytelling.

Let's say that Homo Florensiensis, our primitive and midget brothers, survived. They had limitations as far as brain capacity and even their larynx, as they probably didn't have the capacity to generate complex sounds. They were rather small, but as part of our Homo genus, even with their limitations, they probably possessed intelligence that was way superior to any other species in Earth, besides ours.

So, first some background from our own society and history why we wouldn't be shy in enslaving our little Hobbit brothers:

  1. Every person that had to combine studying and working with living by yourself know those daily repetitive and menial tasks such as procuring groceries, cooking, doing your laundry, cleaning your house and so forth are really huge hindrances to someone to have even a little of that quiet time that is needed for our imagination to achieve serendipity, or even to pondering about ideas enough to reach creative conclusions. (One of the reasons why most of Western civilization inventors were single, childless White males, relatively well-to-do, and with lots of free time in their hands. Exceptions, like Einstein, needed to ask friends to come over to watch his kids for a while so he could lock himself alone in a room to solve those fundamental relativity equations)

  2. We Homo Sapiens (especially us from Western European White ancestry) had no boundaries in doing evil to our fellow human, and under all kinds of rationalizations and justifications possible (bring them to "civilization", or "to Jesus", or just the "white man's burden" that we American and British had to "carry" to "protect" other people - in exchange for their nations natural resources or for them to not going the way of our "enemies", of course) we tortured them, enslaved them, raped them, exploited them and killed thousands of millions of them, their children, and so on.

As a side note, just remember that most of the people that provided funding to our first Western industrial revolution in the 18th century had built their fortunes through the African slave trade (while Britain controlled 90% of it by holding the monopoly to sell slaves into the Spanish and Portuguese Empires). And those that hadn't achieved that wealth through selling other humans to slavery had become indecently wealth by expelling people from their own land and building giant single owner estates for themselves, what forced those poor and landless people into the cities and to serve as ill-paid workers for the newly born industries (that had become so important themselves by destroying free-people artisan guilds through artificially lowering prices and as result taking the artisans out of business - basically what Walmart did to mom-and-pop shops here in the US in the 1990s)

Then, the rationale as a matter of conclusion:

So, there will be no moral or ethical issues that we humans cannot leave behind to bring those "poor ill-witted little fellows" to live as our house servants and do all menial jobs for us. We would probably try, at first, to use them to do heavier labor that was the property of African slaves around the world from the 16th century to the 19th century. But they wouldn't be as efficient on doing that as African slaves, as for instance in OTL, Native Americans weren't, so we would probably just use them as our "house servants".

As they probably (according to archeological studies) had shorter pregnancies than those we have, and without the resource limitations of Flores Island, they would thrive and reproduce to the millions while living in Europe, the Ottoman Empire, or in the Qing. There would be plenty of little "barely-witless" (according to the "science" of that ATL time) Hobbits around to be employed to our service.

I have some ideas of what would probably change as far as daily life, economics and society as we had plenty of a intelligent servant species to provide for us, like for instance: our little "Hobbits" would surely be cheaper than an African slave (comparative economic historical studies say that an African slave would cost around the same as a brand new tractor would cost in the 1950s in Europe and USA, so not something every little farmer could afford). As our Hobbit brothers would be more affordable, even poorer households, such as that of a tenant farmer in Prussia or Russia for example, would be able to have one or two.

But I want to hear your ideas on what would change in modern human society if we had Homo Florensiensis to work as our "servant" species and free us from household and life little chores.

Thanks in advance to anyone that takes time to answer.

One thing, please, don't take "Hobbits" under the Tolkienesque meaning of the word. I just call those Homo Florensiensis "Hobbits" because that is the nickname they were given. Thanks again.

  • $\begingroup$ What if it turns out they'd become hyper aggressive highly intelligent little buggers to survive all those giant rats & other big beasties & it was only being trapped on that island that stopped them sweeping across the continents & enslaving us ;)) $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 20 '21 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ What's your time-frame? when in history are you proposing contact between the two sub-species // too early & there are no houses etc for them to clean & by the time there are they've most likely disappeared through cross breeding & just become part of our ancestral genome. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 20 '21 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ The question is too broad in its current form. It would be better if you focused on a specific area or a specific problem. 'Changes in modern society' is too vague and may include too many things. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Aug 21 '21 at 16:57

They're not Worth it

For an average low-class farmer, a hobbit or two probably isn't worth the effort. Even though they're small, they still need a decent amount of feeding, and what's more it's food that You the Human Eat. Having a "domestic" to cook and clean just isn't worth the added cost in food for a smallholder, who at best can expect to feed his family most of the time, and produce enough extra crops to trade for whatever else he needs. Instead the work can be done by his wife, who is tied to the house a good amount of the time anyway because that's where the kids are to keep them safe, and breastfeeding is the only way to keep them fed. (which, by the by, is also why "women's work" is cloth-related. Not terribly dangerous, can be done whilst watching children!) If you have a hobbit doing it, your wife is STILL tied to the small child, because nobody else can feed the thing. So you're either spending resources so she can be idle (unwise) or having two people do the work of one (also unwise).

In the fields your hobbits aren't much more useful than an average child. They miiight (Depending on their intelligence and strength) be of some use when it comes to herding or perhaps mining. But mining isn't something smallholders do. Herding is, but why have a hobbit (which needs the exact same food you do) when you could have a dog (which doesn't)? The only exception I can think of is something like rice farming, which has a lot of "bend over and do it by hand" compared to wheat/barley/etc, where the strength disadvantage means less and the smaller size might be a slight advantage.

Once you hit multi-slave household levels of wealth they may come in handy. At that point you can afford less-useful mouths, so having somebody weave while your wife writes poetry or whatever whilst watching the kid could be a prestige signal. Or you have dozens of them for your mines. But at that point you can spend your gold on human slaves who can do full-sized human work.

The exception to all this is if you keep the hobbits out of sight until late. Once you have textile factories and the like having quick-breeding, simple-minded, small slaves might make it such that factories become efficient to run with slaves. Unlike in our time, where slaves were generally not great for factory work.

TL/DR: Few if any low-class persons from before the industrial revolution would risk another mouth to feed to do menial household labor, and there are few positions where a wealthier person would take a hobbit when they could get a "normal" human slave. But if you found them later on they might make handy factory workers.

  • $\begingroup$ "They're not Worth it" // maybe it isn't (at least in a modern economic environment) & you're right // but the Roman empire & countless other societies throughout history apparently disagree (not to mention various groups & individuals that insist on making a spirited attempt to keep the practice alive in the modern world despite very strong legal & societal pressures) // it wouldn't have existed so long & so often if it wasn't 'worth it' // ignoring obvious evidence because it doesn't fit what you think 'should' be right is just bad science // so it's just as well this isn't science :)) $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 20 '21 at 19:08

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