Medieval Studies Slavery in Medieval Europe
by
Hannah Barker
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 November 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0276

Introduction

Common knowledge would have it that slavery did not exist in medieval Europe. However, there is a thriving body of scholarship which demonstrates that slavery was practiced widely in various forms in Europe during the Middle Ages, alongside captivity, serfdom, and other types of unfreedom. Where then did the common knowledge come from? In the first instance, it derives from the late-18th- and 19th-century abolitionist assumption that as Christianity spread through Europe during the Middle Ages, it must surely have driven out slavery. Among scholars, this common knowledge is sometimes reinforced by Marxist historical narratives, according to which slavery was the mode of production characteristic of the Roman period, while serfdom characterized the medieval period. Yet into the 14th and 15th centuries, medieval Europeans continued to own slaves, trade in slaves, and enslave each other as well as non-European others. They used slaves for agricultural and artisanal labor as well as domestic, sexual, reproductive, and military service. However, the composition of enslaved populations, their demographic and social significance in relation to free populations, the precise legal meaning of slave status, and the practices associated with slavery all varied significantly by region and era. Though Europe was not the only slave-holding region during the medieval period, scholarship about the history of slavery in medieval Byzantium, the Islamic world, Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Africa, and the Americas is substantial. Each of these regions merits a bibliography of its own. Moreover, though slavery was not the only form of unfreedom that existed in medieval Europe, captives, hostages, prisoners, and pledges have also been the subjects of much research and merit dedicated bibliographies, too. Finally, though the academic study of medieval slavery came into being in the 19th century alongside the abolitionist discourse that ignored its existence, this bibliography will highlight recent works, especially those produced within the last fifty years. Many older works remain useful as reference points and guides to the archival sources, but contemporary scholars have brought fresh analytical perspectives to bear on slavery studies, each contributing to the flourishing field that exists today.

Overviews

Despite the recent proliferation of articles, edited collections, and monographs on slavery in medieval Europe, no textbooks, anthologies, or reference works are currently available in English. Under Journals, see Slavery and Abolition, which publishes a helpful annual bibliographical supplement. For those seeking to orient themselves to the field, there are several overviews that can serve as entry points. Painter 2010, Davis 1988, and Patterson 1982 are broad surveys of slavery, slaving, and race, with chapters that address the medieval period. Miller 2012 and Bodel and Scheidel 2017 offer critiques of Patterson’s framework for the study of slavery and suggest various alternatives. Fynn-Paul 2009, Phillips 1985, and Verlinden 1955–1977 are surveys by specialists in medieval European history who confine themselves to the study of slavery in medieval contexts.

  • Bodel, John, and Walter Scheidel, eds. On Human Bondage: After Slavery and Social Death. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017.

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    The result of a 2012 conference on Patterson 1982, reevaluating its reception from a global and comparative perspective on the thirtieth anniversary of its publication. Chapters by Kyle Harper and Michael McCormick draw on evidence from medieval Europe.

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  • Davis, David Brion. The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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    Chapter 2 surveys the presence of slaves in medieval Europe in order to show continuity from ancient Greek and Roman slavery to slavery in the early modern Atlantic. First published in 1966 by Cornell University Press.

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  • Fynn-Paul, Jeffrey. “Empire, Monotheism and Slavery in the Greater Mediterranean Region from Antiquity to the Early Modern Era.” Past and Present 205 (2009): 3–40.

    DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtp036Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Fynn-Paul defines a slaving zone as an area where enslavement is considered permissible and a no-slaving zone as an area where enslavement is not considered permissible by a given society. He argues that empires acted as the first no-slaving zones, but that the spread of Christianity and Islam created large religion-based no-slaving zones that channeled medieval and early modern slaving activity to peripheral areas in Africa and Russia.

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  • Miller, Joseph. The Problem of Slavery as History: A Global Approach. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012.

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    A historian’s challenge to Patterson’s sociological definition of slavery. Miller defines slaving as a historical strategy adopted by specific individuals in specific circumstances to advance specific goals. He identifies isolation and powerlessness as key characteristics of the experience of the enslaved. Finally, he emphasizes the importance of change, both as a cause and as a goal for slaving strategies.

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  • Painter, Nell Irvin. The History of White People. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010.

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    A broad survey of the relationship between slavery and race, especially constructions of whiteness. Chapters 3 through 6 concern medieval slavery, the stereotypes associated with white slave women from the Caucasus, and the process through which Caucasian emerged in the 18th century as the generic term for white people.

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  • Patterson, Orlando. Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.

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    A sociological approach to defining slavery through wide-ranging cross-cultural comparisons. Patterson’s definition has become a touchstone among scholars of slavery. It identifies violence, dishonor, and natal alienation (social death) as key components of slave status.

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  • Phillips, William D. Slavery from Roman Times to the Early Transatlantic Trade. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985.

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    As the title indicates, this is a survey of slavery in medieval Europe from the Roman period to the early modern period. Phillips is a specialist in Iberian history, and his survey has an Iberian focus and includes substantial comparison with slavery in the Islamic world.

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  • Verlinden, Charles. L’Esclavage dans l’Europe médiévale. 2 vols. Ghent, Belgium: Rijksuniversiteit te Gent, 1955–1977.

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    This work, the culmination of a lifetime of research by Verlinden, is still considered the definitive survey of slavery in medieval Europe. Volume 1 covers slavery in Iberia and France. Volume 2 covers slavery in Italy, the late medieval Italian colonies, the crusader states, and the Byzantine Empire. Volume 3, which would have addressed northern Europe, was never completed.

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Journals

There are two journals dedicated to the study of slavery that occasionally publish articles on the medieval period. Slavery and Abolition focuses on transatlantic slavery in the modern era, while the Journal of Global Slavery takes a global/comparative perspective. In addition, Past and Present has published a number of important articles on slavery in medieval Europe.

The Transition from Slavery to Serfdom

Until the 2000s, scholarship on slavery during the medieval period was dominated by a Marxist historical framework in which slavery and serfdom were considered to be parallel, comparable modes of agricultural production. The question was when slavery as the dominant (and quintessentially Roman) mode of production gave way to serfdom as the dominant (and quintessentially medieval) mode of production. With the early 2000s came a new interest in the gendered nature of slavery and the late medieval preponderance of female slaves performing domestic, sexual, and reproductive services for urban households (see the section on Slavery and Gender). Nevertheless, debates about the transition from slavery to serfdom continue, with a growing recognition that this transition happened at different times and in different ways in different parts of Europe. Evidence for early medieval experimentation with forms of unfreedom distinct from either slavery or serfdom is presented in Rio 2017. More traditional views on a direct transition from slavery to serfdom are presented in Bloch 1975 and Dockès 1982, which draw on Frankish evidence, as well as Bonnassie 1991, Bensch 1994, and Freedman 1991, which draw on Iberian evidence. Haverkamp 2005 focuses on the transition from rural to urban slavery in Italy. Pelteret 1995 (cited under Slavery by Region: Scandinavia and Britain) illustrates how the transition from slavery to serfdom in England occurred as an unintended consequence of the Norman conquest and absentee Norman landlordship. Finally, cases from across the region, with an emphasis on eastern Europe, are collected in Cavaciocchi 2014.

  • Bensch, Stephen. “From Prizes of War to Domestic Merchandise: The Changing Face of Slavery in Catalonia and Aragon, 1000–1300.” Viator 25 (1994): 63–91.

    DOI: 10.1484/J.VIATOR.2.301208Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that the period 1000–1300 has been neglected in the historiography on medieval slavery, since it pertains neither to the early medieval fading of agricultural slavery nor to the late medieval persistence of domestic slavery. Bensch describes an 11th-century shift in Iberia from Muslim slaving in Christian kingdoms to Christian slaving in Muslim kingdoms, followed by a 13th-century shift in which purchase overtook capture as the primary means of acquiring slaves.

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  • Bloch, Marc. Slavery and Serfdom in the Middle Ages: Selected Essays. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975.

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    A series of essays about various aspects of servile status. Chapter 2 offers a definition of serf on the basis of French sources. Chapter 4 identifies a shift in the meaning of serf in the 13th century, with a new emphasis on hierarchy and serfs as the lowest class, as opposed to the old emphasis on personal relations and serfs as the lowest in a chain of vassals.

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  • Bonnassie, Pierre. From Slavery to Feudalism in South-Western Europe. Translated by Jean Birrell. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511753343Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A collection of essays in which Bonnassie argues that the transition from a mixture of enslaved and free peasants to serfs occurred as a consequence of the rise of feudalism and the breakdown of public justice around the year 1000. His evidence comes primarily from Catalonia.

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  • Cavaciocchi, Simonetta, ed. Serfdom and Slavery in the European Economy, 11th–18th Centuries. Florence: Firenze University Press, 2014.

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    Result of the 2013 study week at the Istituto Datini in Prato. Chapters address serfdom and slavery in the medieval and early modern periods in England, Germany, Bohemia, Russia, Poland, Hungary, the Baltic, Malta, Italy, Catalonia, Castile, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Denmark. The chapter by Juliane Schiel engages with another aspect of periodization: the relationship between the Black Death and late medieval slavery.

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  • Dockès, Pierre. Medieval Slavery and Liberation. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

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    Taking a Marxist approach to the question of periodization, Dockès argues that class struggle was the cause of the transition from slavery to serfdom, and that it occurred between the 3rd and 9th centuries. The Carolingian state collapsed at this time because it had been undermined by the concentration of land and the impoverishment of the working class, both processes inherent to the slave mode of production.

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  • Freedman, Paul. The Origins of Peasant Servitude in Medieval Catalonia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511583636Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Serfdom in Catalonia did not evolve smoothly from Roman practices of slavery. Instead, peasants invited to settle as free laborers on Catalonian land in the 10th century were gradually subjected to servitude by the 13th century, and were unable to overturn this status until a series of successful revolts in the 15th century.

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  • Haverkamp, Alfred. “Die Erneuerung der Sklaverei im Mittelmeerraum während des hohen Mittelalters.” In Unfreie Arbeits- und Lebensverhältnisse von der Antike bis in die Gegenwart: Eine Einführung. Edited by Elisabeth Herrmann-Otto, 130–166. Hildesheim, Germany: Georg Olms Verlag, 2005.

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    Focusing on Italy during the period 1000–1300, Haverkamp argues that slavery was renewed during the High Middle Ages through a combination of colonialism in the eastern Mediterranean and the rediscovery of Aristotle’s theory of natural slavery.

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  • Rio, Alice. Slavery after Rome, 500–1100. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704058.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This groundbreaking book argues that instead of a simple transition from slavery to serfdom, the Merovingians and Carolingians experimented with various forms of unfreedom and legal dependence between the 6th and 11th centuries before finally settling on serfdom.

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Slavery and Law

Scholarship on slavery and law must contend with the existence of multiple, competing jurisdictions in medieval communities. Helmholz 2012 situates slavery as part of the ius commune (common law). Gilchrist 1976, Winroth 2006, and Sommar 2010 address slavery in the sphere of canon law. Hernando i Delgado 2002–2003, Rio 2012, Ferragud 2013, and Blumenthal 2014 address interesting features of slavery in relation to the civil law of specific periods and regions.

  • Blumenthal, Debra. “Domestic Medicine: Slaves, Servants and Female Medical Expertise in Late Medieval Valencia.” Renaissance Studies 28 (2014): 515–532.

    DOI: 10.1111/rest.12077Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Challenges Ferragud 2013 by highlighting cases in which the testimony of lay women, especially the mistress of the household, was preferred by judges in legal cases regarding slaves’ health.

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  • Ferragud, Carmel. “The Role of Doctors in the Slave Trade during the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries within the Kingdom of Valencia (Crown of Aragon).” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 87 (2013): 143–169.

    DOI: 10.1353/bhm.2013.0035Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explains the role of physicians as expert witnesses in disputes regarding slaves’ health, especially as it affected the legality of their sale.

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  • Gilchrist, John. “The Medieval Canon Law on Unfree Persons: Gratian and the Decretist Doctrines c. 1141–1234.” Studia Gratiana 19 (1976): 271–302.

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    A survey of the various contexts in which unfree people (servi) appear in Gratian’s Decretum, and an analysis of the legal aspects of their status within canon law.

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  • Helmholz, R. H. “The Law of Slavery and the European Ius Commune.” In The Legal Understanding of Slavery: From the Historical to the Contemporary. Edited by Jean Allain, 17–39. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199660469.003.0003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A helpful survey of slave status as defined through the ius commune, the common legal culture of high and late medieval Europe. This is a good starting point for anyone interested in slavery in medieval law.

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  • Hernando i Delgado, Josep. “L’estat físic dels esclaus: Malalties i defectes. La redhibició i l’evicció i la compravenda d’esclaus (s. XIV–XV).” Acta historica et archaeologia mediaevalia 23–24 (2002–2003): 415–440.

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    Explains the legal obligation to declare redhibitory faults (serious illnesses, injuries, or other defects) in documents of sale for slaves, drawing on evidence from Tortosa and Barcelona.

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  • Rio, Alice. “Self-Sale and Voluntary Entry into Unfreedom.” Journal of Social History 45 (2012): 661–685.

    DOI: 10.1093/jsh/shr086Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Analyzes the phenomenon of self-sale, which was theoretically illegal, in Merovingian and Carolingian contexts. Discusses unusual forms of partial or temporary self-sale, self-pledge, and self-gift.

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  • Sommar, Mary E. “Gratian and the Servi ecclesiarum.” In Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Congress of Medieval Canon Law. Edited by P. Erdö and A. Szuromi, 327–335. Vatican City: Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, 2010.

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    Focuses on the sections of Gratian’s Decretum devoted to unfree people owned by the church.

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  • Winroth, Anders. “Neither Slave nor Free: Theology and Law in Gratian’s Thoughts on the Definition of Marriage and Unfree Persons.” In Medieval Church Law and the Origins of the Western Legal Tradition. Edited by Wolfgang Müller and Mary Sommar, 97–109. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2006.

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    Analysis of C.29 of Gratian’s Decretum, showing that in comparison to his sources and to Roman law, Gratian chose to emphasize the right of the unfree to marry and the overriding importance of their own consent.

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Slavery and Christianity

As most 19th- and early-20th-century scholars would have it, Christianity was incompatible with slavery, and its spread heralded the slow decline of slave ownership in Europe. This belief in the ameliorative power of Christianity was promoted by abolitionists campaigning against the transatlantic slave trade. In that context, it was very effective. Upon closer examination of medieval sources, however, it becomes clear that slavery never ceased to exist in Europe during the Middle Ages, and that its presence was not incompatible with Christianity.

Slavery and Late Antique Christianity

Harrill 1995, Glancy 2002, Harper 2011, and de Wet 2015 discuss the place of slavery in Christian life and thought in Late Antiquity, drawing especially on references to slavery in New Testament and patristic texts.

  • de Wet, Chris. Preaching Bondage: John Chrysostom and the Discourse of Slavery in Early Christianity. Oakland: University of California Press, 2015.

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    Coins the term doulology, the discourse of slavery, to explain how John Chrysostom shaped and sustained Christian slavery through his sermons. Slaves made up part of the wealth of his congregants; mastering them was a matter not only of metaphor but also of household management.

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  • Glancy, Jennifer. Slavery in Early Christianity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1093/0195136098.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Brings the physical and social realities of Roman slavery to bear on references to slavery, both real and metaphorical, throughout the New Testament. An effective challenge to the belief that the slave-free distinction was not relevant to early Christianity or to early Christians.

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  • Harper, Kyle. Slavery in the Late Roman World, AD 275–425. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511973451Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Harper argues that 4th-century Roman slavery was a well-established, widespread, and stable system. Change occurred not with the end of imperial expansion or with the imperial adoption of Christianity, but with the broader economic collapse of the Western Empire in the 5th century.

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  • Harrill, J. Albert. The Manumission of Slaves in Early Christianity. Tübingen, Germany: J.C.B. Mohr, 1995.

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    This work seeks to interpret passages on slavery from two important early Christian texts, Paul’s 1 Corinthians 7:21 and Ignatius’s Ad Polycarpum 4.3, as they reflect tension between the early Christian practices of private manumission and manumission through a common chest.

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Slavery and Medieval Christianity

Killoran 1987, Jurasinski 2010, Herder 2017, and Fynn-Paul and Pargas 2018 explain how slavery’s role in Christian life and thought evolved in various contexts over the course of the Middle Ages.

  • Fynn-Paul, Jeff, and Damian Pargas, eds. Slaving Zones: Cultural Identities, Ideologies, and Institutions in the Evolution of Global Slavery. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2018.

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    The result of a conference evaluating the impact of the slaving zones thesis put forward by Fynn-Paul 2009 (cited under Overviews). Chapters 2–5 focus on religion and slavery in the contexts of early Christianity, Genoese colonies in the Black Sea, Romania, and Iberia.

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  • Herder, Michelle. “Serving in the Cloister: Slaves, Servants, and Discipline in Late Medieval Nunneries.” In Boundaries in the Medieval and Wider World: Essays in Honour of Paul Freedman. Edited by Thomas Barton, Susan McDonough, Sara McDougall, and Matthew Wranovix, 137–152. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2017.

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    Examines how nuns’ ownership of slaves generated tension between the ideals and realities of monastic life in the Crown of Aragon.

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  • Jurasinski, Stefan. “The Old English Penitentials and the Law of Slavery.” In English Law before Magna Carta: Felix Liebermann and Die Gesetze der Angelsachen. Edited by Stefan Jurasinski, Lisi Oliver, and Andrew Rabin, 97–118. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010.

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    Surveys the historiography (or lack thereof) on slavery in Anglo-Saxon England, and makes the case for penitentials as a valuable source for early medieval English practices of slavery.

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  • Killoran, John. “Aquinas and Vitoria: Two Perspectives on Slavery.” In The Medieval Tradition of Natural Law. Edited by Harold Johnson, 87–101. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1987.

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    Explains Thomas Aquinas’s argument for slavery as a matter of natural law in his commentary on Aristotle’s Politics and in his Summa theologica, as opposed to Augustine, who held that slavery was not natural because it was a consequence of sin. Outlines the consequences of this controversy for the development of slavery in the New World as illustrated in the works of Francisco de Vitoria.

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Slavery and the Catholic-Orthodox Schism

Schiel 2015 and Dincer 2016 examine the enslavement of Orthodox Christians by Catholic Christians in the late medieval period, as growing hostility between Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the wake of the Fourth Crusade led them to view each other as enslaveable. Melichar 2009 presents a case study of one Orthodox woman who enslaved another. See also Köpstein 1966 (under Slavery by Region: The Mediterranean), which mentions cases of Catholics enslaved by Orthodox Christians, and Hannah Barker’s chapter in Fynn-Paul and Pargas 2018 (under Slavery and Medieval Christianity), which analyzes the case of an Orthodox slave in Genoa who petitioned for freedom.

  • Dincer, Aysu. “Enslaving Christians: Greek Slaves in Late Medieval Cyprus.” Mediterranean Historical Review 31 (2016): 1–19.

    DOI: 10.1080/09518967.2016.1193944Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Questions the assumption that slave status in the late Middle Ages was always grounded in religious difference by examining instances in which both Catholic and Orthodox Christians in Cyprus enslaved Orthodox Christians.

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  • Melichar, Petra. “God, Slave and a Nun: A Case from Late Medieval Cyprus.” Byzantion 79 (2009): 280–291.

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    A case study based on a fifteenth–century manumission inscription. Melichar concludes that both the manumitted slave and her former owner were probably Orthodox, the former captured and enslaved in Serbia and the latter a widow living at home in accordance with a monastic rule.

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  • Schiel, Juliane. “Slaves’ Religious Choice in Renaissance Venice: Applying Insights from Missionary Narratives to Slave Baptism Records.” Archivio veneto 146 (2015): 23–45.

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    Considers how to distinguish between baptized and unbaptized slaves in Venetian records, and explains the contexts in which slave conversion occurred and the degree to which slaves were able to exercise any choice in the matter.

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Slavery across Religions

Since religious difference was often presented by medieval European sources as the ideological basis of slavery, slavery as practiced by Christians in medieval Europe cannot be understood in isolation from slavery as practiced by Jews, Muslims, and others in medieval Europe and neighboring regions. Edited collections such as Ferrer i Mallol and Mutgé i Vives 2000, Guillén and Trabelsi 2012, Schiel and Hanß 2014, and Amitai and Cluse 2017, often with a Mediterranean theme (see also the works listed under Slavery by Region: The Mediterranean), juxtapose practices of slavery in Christian, Jewish, and Muslims communities. Meyerson 1995, Constable 1996, Burns 1999, and Meouak 2004 (all cited under Iberia), as well as Rosenberger 1987 and Gordon and Hain 2017, cover slaving and slavery across religious boundaries in the Iberian context. In contrast, Haarmann 2001, Loiseau 2011, and Gillingham 2015 discuss slavery in the context of Crusades in the eastern Mediterranean. Perry 2017 considers the position of slaves owned by Jews in medieval Egypt.

  • Amitai, Reuven, and Christoph Cluse, eds. Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Eastern Mediterreanean (c.1000–1500 CE). Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2017.

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    The result of a 2009 conference. Chapters cover slavery in connection with the Crusades, Islamic law, the Geniza archive produced by the Jewish community in Cairo, the Catalan Company, Byzantium, the Mamluk kingdom, Genoa, Venice, and Crimea.

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  • Ferrer i Mallol, Maria Teresa, and Josefina Mutgé i Vives, eds. De l’esclavitud a la llibertat: Esclaus i llibertats a l’edat mitjana. Barcelona: Consell Superior d’Investigacions Científiques, 2000.

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    The result of a colloquium in 1999. Chapters address slavery, captivity, ransom, and manumission across the Muslim-Christian frontier in Iberia in general, as well as in Catalonia, Barcelona, Aragon, Valencia, al-Andalus, Majorca, Manresa, Torroella de Montgrí, Saragossa, the monastery of Jonqueres, the Templar Order, and the Catalan Company. Later chapters deal with Sicily, Naples, Pisa, and Chios and other Genoese colonies.

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  • Gillingham, John. “Crusading Warfare, Chivalry, and the Enslavement of Women and Children.” In The Medieval Way of War: Studies in Medieval Military History in Honor of Bernard S. Bachrach. Edited by Gregory Halfond, 133–151. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015.

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    This chapter examines the realities behind the chroniclers’ formula “all the men were killed and the women and children were taken captive” as the outcome of a battle or campaign. While Gillingham focuses on Crusades in the Middle East, he also considers Crusades in Estonia and the Albigensian Crusade in southern France.

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  • Gordon, Matthew, and Kathryn Hain. Concubines and Courtesans: Women and Slavery in Islamic History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

    DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190622183.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Although the focus of this collection is the Islamic world rather than Europe, chapters by Dwight Reynolds, Cristina de la Puente, and Heather Empey focus on slavery in al-Andalus.

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  • Guillén, Fabienne, and Salah Trabelsi, eds. Les esclavages en Méditerranée: Espaces et dynamiques économiques. Madrid: Casa de Velázquez, 2012.

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    This volume begins with an analysis of the distinction between captivity, slavery, and the overlapping markets in unfree people. Chapters cover Iberia and the Maghreb along with the Black Sea and Russia.

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  • Haarmann, Ulrich. “The Mamluk System of Rule in the Eyes of Western Travelers.” Mamluk Studies Review 5 (2001): 1–24.

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    Analyzes the reactions of European travelers, mainly pilgrims, when they encountered Mamluks of Christian European origin who had been enslaved, converted to Islam, trained as elite soldiers, and manumitted to join the military elite of the Mamluk sultanate in Egypt and Syria.

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  • Loiseau, Julien. “Frankish Captives in Mamluk Cairo.” Al-Masaq 23 (2011): 37–52.

    DOI: 10.1080/09503110.2011.552946Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Describes the experiences of Frankish captives taken in the final Mamluk campaigns against crusader cities in the late 13th century. The last captive to be ransomed left Cairo in 1315, but a Frankish population continued to work as builders, wine makers, entertainers, and prostitutes to the end of the 14th century.

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  • Perry, Craig. “Conversion as an Aspect of Master-Slave Relationship in the Medieval Egyptian Jewish Community.” In Contesting Inter-Religious Conversion in the Medieval World. Edited by Yaniv Fox and Yosi Yisraeli, 135–159. London: Routledge, 2017.

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    A case study based on documents from the Cairo Geniza in which slaves belonging to Jewish masters used conversion or the threat of conversion, either to Judaism or to Islam, as a means of promoting and protecting their own interests vis-a-vis their masters.

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  • Rosenberger, Bernard. “Maquiller l’esclave (al-Andalus XIIeme-XIIIeme siecles).” In Les soins de beauté: Moyen Age, début des temps modernes: Actes du IIIe colloque international, Grasse (26–28 avril 1985). Edited by Denis Menjot. Nice: Université de Nice, 1987.

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    Analyzes recipes for beauty treatments used by unscrupulous Andalusi merchants to deceive unwary slave buyers. Based on a late-12th- or early-13th-century manual for market inspectors from Almohad Malaga.

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  • Schiel, Juliane, and Stefan Hanß, eds. Mediterranean Slavery Revisited (500–1800), Neue Perspektiven auf mediterrane Sklaverei (500–1800). Zürich, Switzerland: Chronos Verlag, 2014.

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    The result of a conference in 2012 covering the medieval and early modern periods. Chapters address slavery and manumission in European Jewish communities, Iberia, the Maghreb, Genoa, Venice, Rome, Croatia, Russia, Byzantium, the Ottoman Empire, and Thailand.

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Slavery and Gender

The early 2000s saw a historiographical shift away from the early Middle Ages, agricultural slavery, and debates about the transition from slavery to serfdom (see Transition from Slavery to Serfdom), and toward the late Middle Ages, urban slavery, and the preponderance of slave women providing domestic, sexual, and reproductive services. This body of scholarship has challenged the winking stereotype of the irresistibly seductive slave and her paradoxically powerless master, focusing instead on ownership of the body and sexual violence as integral parts of slavery, the fates of the children born to free fathers and enslaved mothers, and the use of slave mothers as wet nurses for free children. Gillingham 2012 explains why women and children made up a disproportionate number of the enslaved. Klapisch-Zuber 1986, Stuard 1995, Meek 2000, McKee 2007, and Karras 2012 focus on sex, coercion, and the social dynamics of slaveholding households, as does Gordon and Hain 2017 (cited under Slavery across Religions). McKee 2004, Cluse 2005, Blumenthal 2014, and Winer 2017 focus on slaves as mothers of their masters’ potential heirs and as nurses for freeborn children.

  • Blumenthal, Debra. “Masters, Slave Women and Their Children: A Child Custody Dispute in 15th-Century Valencia.” In Mediterranean Slavery Revisited (500–1800). Edited by Juliane Schiel and Stefan Hanß, 229–256. Zürich, Switzerland: Chronos Verlag, 2014.

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    A case study about a custody dispute over Ysabel, the daughter of Alberto de Pont of Genoa and Catalina, Alberto’s slave in Valencia. Alberto offered to manumit Catalina on the condition that she send Ysabel to Genoa to be raised as Alberto’s daughter with his wife. Explains the idea of reproductive labor (bearing and nursing children) and the difficult choices faced by slave mothers.

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  • Cluse, Christoph. “Frauen in Sklaverei: Beobachtungen aus genuesischen Notariatsregistern des 14. und 15. Jahrhunderts.” In Campana pulsante convocati: Festschrift anlässlich der Emeritierung von Prof. Dr. Alfred Haverkamp. Edited by Frank Hirschmann and Gerd Mentgen, 85–124. Trier, Germany: Kliomedia, 2005.

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    Begins with a survey of the position of domestic slaves in urban Italian households. Then argues for sexual exploitation as an expectation, not an exception, for enslaved women, and examines their use as wet nurses.

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  • Gillingham, John. “Women, Children and the Profits of War.” In Gender and Historiography: Studies in the Earlier Middle Ages in Honour of Pauline Stafford. Edited by Janet Nelson, Susan Reynolds, and Susan Johns, 61–74. London: Institute of Historical Research, 2012.

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    Argues that enslaved women and children were not a by-product of war but among its intended victims, and that this means of profiting from warfare continued in England and Scandinavia into the 12th century, well after their conversion to Christianity. Challenges the assumption that prisoners of war were usually men, and points out that masculine plural nouns frequently conceal the presence of women in mixed groups.

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  • Karras, Ruth Mazo. Unmarriages: Women, Men, and Sexual Unions in the Middle Ages. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

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    Describes and analyzes a wide range of sexual relationships other than marriage. Much of Karras’s discussion of slavery is located in chapter 2 on unequal unions, but her explanation of medieval concubinage in relation to both free and enslaved women is also very helpful.

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  • Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane. “Women Servants in Florence during the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries.” In Women and Work in Preindustrial Europe. Edited by Barbara Hanawalt, 56–80. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

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    Explains the sphere of servile work, presenting free servants and slave women as competitors within the household hierarchy under the supervision of the mistress of the household.

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  • McKee, Sally. “Inherited Status and Slavery in Renaissance Italy and Venetian Crete.” Past and Present 182 (2004): 31–54.

    DOI: 10.1093/past/182.1.31Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explains how the children of free Venetian men and enslaved Greek women in the Venetian colony of Crete gradually became able to claim free status but remained excluded from the privileges of their fathers’ patrician families in Venice.

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  • McKee, Sally. “The Implications of Slave Women’s Sexual Service in Late Medieval Italy.” In Unfreie Arbeit: Ökonomische und kulturgeschichtliche Perspektiven. Edited by M. Erdem Kabadayi and Tobias Reichardt, 101–114. Hildesheim, Germany: Georg Olms Verlag, 2007.

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    McKee was one of the first scholars to critique the stereotype of slave women as seductresses. She surveys the slave population and the use of slave labor in Renaissance Italy, but highlights the sexual service expected of slave women, its connection to Italian colonialism in the eastern Mediterranean, and the reasons for free men at the time to conceal their sexual exploitation of slave women.

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  • Meek, Christine. “Men, Women and Magic: Some Cases from Late Medieval Lucca.” In Women in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe. Edited by Christine Meek, 43–66. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000.

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    Surveys several cases of magic in Lucca. In one case, Zita, a Greek former slave, helped two other slaves, both named Anna, who were beaten by their masters, felt afraid, and hoped to change their masters’ attitudes to love through the use of magical powders. Integrates slavery into discussions of power, gender, and witchcraft in Italian cities.

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  • Stuard, Susan Mosher. “Ancillary Evidence for the Decline of Medieval Slavery.” Past and Present 149 (1995): 3–28.

    DOI: 10.1093/past/149.1.3Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that a shift in focus from male agricultural slavery to female domestic slavery completely changes the narrative of a medieval decline in slavery. Three factors caused the persistence of female domestic slavery: the stable meaning of the Latin term ancilla, the Roman legal principle that children inherited their mother’s status, and the continuing economic value of domestic slavery even as agricultural slavery ceased to be viable.

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  • Winer, Rebecca. “The Enslaved Wet Nurse as Nanny: The Transition from Free to Slave Labor in Childcare in Barcelona after the Black Death (1348).” Slavery and Abolition 38 (2017): 303–319.

    DOI: 10.1080/0144039X.2017.1316969Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Although maternal breastfeeding was idealized in theory, in practice many wealthy women in Barcelona chose to use enslaved wet nurses. These wet nurses were subject to a double exploitation, first by male masters for sexual purposes and then by female mistresses who put the needs of their children before those of the wet nurses’ own children.

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Slavery, Race, and Methods of Categorization

Scholars interested in concepts of identity and categorization in contexts other than slavery have debated whether race is an appropriate term for expressing medieval thinking about human differences. Scholars of medieval slavery, however, have frequently used the concept of race, some more critically than others. Painter 2010 (cited under Overviews) explains the origin of the term Caucasian for white people as a product of long-term connections between slave status and whiteness, while Blumenthal 2009 (under Iberia) addresses the growing connection between slave status and blackness in Valencia over the course of the 15th century. Works in this section approach the connection between slavery and race in a more limited way. Groebner 2007 and Cluse 2010 treat race as one of a range of categories applied to slaves and other oppressed people. Müller 1979, Epstein 2001, Brackett 2005, and Lowe 2012 focus on blackness and its connection to slavery in late medieval and Renaissance Italy. Fioravanti 1981 focuses instead on the Scythians, Aristotle’s race of natural slaves, in the eyes of medieval commentators.

  • Brackett, John. “Race and Rulership: Alessandro de’ Medici, First Medici Duke of Florence, 1529–1537.” In Black Africans in Renaissance Europe. Edited by T. F. Earle and K. J. P. Lowe, 303–325. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    Presents the evidence that Alessandro de’ Medici, the first Medici duke of Florence, was the child of an enslaved African mother and a free Medici father, either the ruler of Urbino or Pope Clement VII. Considers ways in which the significance of blackness differed in the 16th century; does not consider ways in which the significance of slavery may also have differed.

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  • Cluse, Christoph. “Zur Repräsentation von Sklaven und Sklavinnen in Statuten und Notariatsinstrumenten italienischer Städte um 1400.” In Fremde in der Stadt: Ordnungen, Repräsentationen und soziale Praktiken (13–15. Jahrhundert). Edited by Peter Bell, Dirk Suckow, and Gerhard Wolf, 383–408. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2010.

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    Like Groebner 2007, Cluse focuses on the act of description as an expression of power just as important as, if not more important than, the content of the description. Slaves were described in detail in legal documents precisely because they were legally powerless.

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  • Epstein, Steven. Speaking of Slavery: Color, Ethnicity, and Human Bondage in Italy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.

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    Extensive and wide-ranging explanation of the web of connections between slavery, color, and language in Italy from the medieval period into the modern era. Epstein includes discussions of slavery in much of his published work on medieval Italy, but this book offers his most thorough analysis of the topic.

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  • Fioravanti, Gianfranco. “Servi, rustici, barbari: Interpretazioni medievali della Politica aristotelica.” Annali della Scuola normale superiore di Pisa: Classe di Lettere e Filosofia, 3rd ser., 11 (1981): 399–429.

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    Thoughtful analysis of medieval commentators on Aristotle’s Politics and their attempts to identify a group of natural slaves, analogous to Aristotle’s Scythians, in the medieval context. Possibilities suggested by the commentators included subjects of a ruler, artisans, contadini, and barbarians.

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  • Groebner, Valentin. Who Are You? Identification, Deception, and Surveillance in Early Modern Europe. Translated by Mark Kyburz and John Peck. New York: Zone Books, 2007.

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    Groebner’s primary interest is in the processes by which governments began to keep descriptive lists of people, culminating in the passport. Along the way, he provides an insightful analysis of the shifting meaning of skin color as an element of physical description in connection with a register of slaves compiled in Florence between 1366 and 1397.

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  • Lowe, Kate. “The Lives of African Slaves and People of African Descent in Renaissance Europe.” In Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe. Edited by Joaneath Spicer, 13–34. Baltimore: Walters Art Museum, 2012.

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    An art historian’s perspective on the presence of African slaves during the Renaissance, with a focus on Italy. Based on a special exhibit at the Walters Art Museum. Other chapters address the presence and influence of free Africans and people of African descent.

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  • Müller, R. C. “Venezia e i primi schiavi neri.” Archivio Veneto, 5th ser., 113 (1979): 139–142.

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    Describes the population of black African slaves in 15th-century Venice, before Venetians began to import slaves via the Atlantic. In this context, most African slaves were imported to Venice from North Africa.

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Slavery by Region

In addition to thematic studies of slavery, there have been a number of studies that seek to describe the evolution of slavery over time in specific European contexts. As well as highlighting the particularities of circumstance that produced distinctive forms of slavery, work of this kind plays an essential role in challenging the common belief that slavery did not exist in medieval Europe, or at least not in medieval northern Europe. Some of the scholars working in this field have adopted a national frame of reference, while others prefer regional or local frameworks. The following section is thus divided into regional subsections, with national and local studies grouped under the appropriate region.

Francia and the Holy Roman Empire

The Merovingian and Carolingian Empires, the Holy Roman Empire, and France have been at the center of debates about the shift toward serfdom, such as Bloch 1975, Dockès 1982, and Rio 2017 (all cited under Transition from Slavery to Serfdom). Other questions of interest in this region include the role of Europeans as suppliers of slaves to Mediterranean markets during the early medieval period, in McCormick 2001; the presence of slave women in Merovingian and Carolingian courts, in Hammer 1995 and Obermeyer 1996; the status of ministerials, German knights of servile status, during the high medieval period, in Arnold 1985, Freed 1995, and Keupp 2002; and the continuing presence of slavery in late medieval southern France, in Winer 2006.

  • Arnold, Benjamin. German Knighthood, 1050–1300. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985.

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    Although German lords had both free and unfree vassals, the service of the unfree vassals, the ministerials, was a nonvoluntary hereditary duty associated both with the lords who owned them and with the places where they were born. The term ministerial first appeared in the 11th century, but it is unclear how this servile, noble class evolved.

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  • Freed, John. Noble Bondsmen: Ministerial Marriages in the Archdiocese of Salzburg, 1100–1343. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.

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    Argues that ministerials rose out of the servile class in the Salzburg archbishopric during the 12th century and attained leadership positions through their involvement in the Investiture Controversy.

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  • Hammer, Carl. “The Handmaid’s Tale: Morganatic Relationships in Early-Mediaeval Bavaria.” Continuity and Change 10 (1995): 345–368.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0268416000002848Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Concerns relationship between free men and enslaved or manumitted women which appear regularly in early medieval Bavarian sources.

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  • Keupp, J. U. Dienst und Verdienst: Die Ministerialen Friedrich Barbarossas und Heinrichs VI. Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann, 2002.

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    Although ministerials were elites in certain respects, able to exercise power and enjoy an aristocratic lifestyle, they still did not have the same level of honor as free magnates because of their unfree status.

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  • McCormick, Michael. Origins of the European Economy: Communications and Commerce, A.D. 300–900. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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    A groundbreaking tome that, in challenging the Pirenne thesis that the rise of Islam ended trans-Mediterranean trade, discovered that slaves were among the main exports of European traders seeking to import spices, silk, and other luxuries from the Islamic world. McCormick published an abbreviated version of this argument in 2002 in Past and Present.

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  • Obermeyer, M. Ancilla: Beitrage zur Geschichte der unfreien Frauen im Fruhmittelalter. Pfaffenweiler, Germany: Centaurus, 1996.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-86226-285-4Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses the position of slave women in Merovingian and Carolingian societies.

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  • Winer, Rebecca. Women, Wealth, and Community in Perpignan, c. 1250–1300: Christians, Jews, and Enslaved Muslims in a Medieval Mediterranean Town. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

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    This book examines how a woman’s social status, marital status, age, and religion affected her economic and legal options. Chapter 6 focuses on slaves, mainly Muslim women with little hope of ransom.

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Iberia

Studies of medieval Iberian slavery tend to focus on one of four themes. The first is the transition from slavery to serfdom in Iberia—the subject of Bonnassie 1991, Bensch 1994, and Freedman 1991 (all cited under Transition from Slavery to Serfdom). The second is the transition from Mediterranean-oriented slavery in the medieval period to Atlantic-oriented slavery in the modern period; see Phillips 1985 (under Overviews). The third describes practices of slavery within medieval Iberia societies; examples are Fynn-Paul 2008, Blumenthal 2009, and Phillips 2014. The fourth is the relationship between Christian and Muslim practices of slavery, represented by Meyerson 1995, Constable 1996, Burns 1999, and Meouak 2004, as well as many chapters in the edited volumes listed under Slavery across Religions.

  • Blumenthal, Debra. Enemies and Familiars: Slavery and Mastery in Fifteenth-Century Valencia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009.

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    Examines the sources of slaves held in 15th-century Valencia, the various ways in which they were used, the social significance of their status, the circumstances under which they might be manumitted, and their prospects as freed people. Particularly helpful for understanding capture de bona guerra and the late-15th-century shift from Iberian and Black Sea slaves to Canary Islanders and eventually Africans.

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  • Burns, R. I. “Interactive Slave Operations: Muslim-Christian-Jewish Contracts in Thirteenth-Century Barcelona.” Medieval Encounters 5 (1999): 135–155.

    DOI: 10.1163/157006799X00015Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Uses four slave-related documents from late-13th-century Barcelona to illustrate routine, normally undocumented interactions between the city’s Christian, Muslim, and Jewish populations.

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  • Constable, Olivia Remie. “Muslim Spain and Mediterranean Slavery: The Medieval Slave Trade as an Aspect of Muslim-Christian Relations.” In Christendom and its Discontents: Exclusion, Persecution, and Rebellion, 1000–1500. Edited by Scott Waugh and Peter Diehl, 264–284. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    Identifies a series of shifts in the Iberian slave trade between the 8th century, when Iberian Muslim traders sold pagan and Christian slaves from Europe in the markets of the Islamic world, and the 13th century, when Iberian Christians enslaved Iberian Muslims and sold them in the markets of the northwest Mediterranean.

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  • Fynn-Paul, Jeffrey. “Tatars in Spain: Renaissance Slavery in the Catalan City of Manresa, c.1408.” Journal of Medieval History 34 (2008): 348–359.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jmedhist.2008.09.006Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Surveys the demography of slaves and slave owners in 15th-century Manresa on the basis of the Liber Manifesti, a list of households and their members created for purposes of tax collection.

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  • Meouak, Mohamed. Ṣaqāliba, eunuques et esclaves à la conquête du pouvoir: Géographie et histoire des élites politiques “marginales” dans l’Espagne umayyade. Helsinki: Academia scientiarum fennica, 2004.

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    The first book-length study of the preference for Slavs as eunuchs and military slaves in the Umayyad court of al-Andalus. These slaves were purchased via the Carolingian Empire beginning in the 8th century.

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  • Meyerson, Mark. “Slavery and the Social Order: Mudejars and Christians in the Kingdom of Valencia.” Medieval Encounters 1 (1995): 144–173.

    DOI: 10.1163/157006795X00118Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Focuses on Christian enslavement of Mudejars, free Muslim subjects of the king of Valencia rather than enemies captured in war, during the 14th and 15th centuries. Argues that the threat of juridical enslavement, sometimes carried out in practice, was used to exert control over the Mudejar community.

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  • Phillips, William D. Slavery in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.

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    A broad and readable survey of slavery in Iberia. Suitable for students as well as for scholars seeking an introduction to the subject.

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Italy

Slavery and slave trading in early medieval Italy is usually situated in a Carolingian context, as in McCormick 2001 (cited under Francia and the Holy Roman Empire). The transition from early to late medieval slavery in Italy is covered in Haverkamp 2005 (under Transition from Slavery to Serfdom). The most important slave markets in late medieval Italy, the clearinghouses where imported slaves arrived and where the inhabitants of other towns sent their agents to procure slaves, were Genoa, Venice, Naples, and Palermo. McKee 2008 surveys the state of the field in that year. Gioffrè 1971, Williams 1995, Heers 1996, and Livi 2002 focus on slavery in the Genoese sphere, as does Epstein 2001 (under Slavery, Race, and Methods of Categorization). Romano 1996 focuses on slavery in the Venetian sphere, as do Müller 1979 (under Slavery, Race, and Methods of Categorization), Schiel 2015 (under Slavery and the Catholic-Orthodox Schism), and Schiel’s chapters in Cavaciocchi 2014 (under Transition from Slavery to Serfdom) and Schiel and Hanß 2014 (under Slavery across Religions). Barker 2019 (under Slavery by Region: The Mediterranean) addresses both Genoa and Venice. Slavery in southern Italy has received less attention than it deserves, but Goodman 2017 takes on the sphere of Palermo. Verlinden 1970 argues for continuity between medieval Italian and early modern Atlantic forms of slavery and colonialism.

  • Gioffrè, Domenico. Il mercato degli schiavi a Genova nel secolo XV. Genoa: Fratelli Bozzi, 1971.

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    Although the analytical section of this book discusses sources of slaves and the ways they were used in Genoa, as well as various features of the Genoese slave market, its main value today lies in its extensive tables of slave sale data.

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  • Goodman, Jack. “Slavery and Manumission in Fourteenth-Century Palermo.” PhD diss., Western Michigan University, 2017.

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    Examines slavery, manumission, and the lives of freed people in 14th-century Palermo. Argues that slaves were economically valuable investments. Draws attention to the constraints experienced by freed people and the ways in which former slaves formed communities and supported one another after manumission.

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  • Heers, Jacques. Esclaves et domestiques au Moyen Âge dans le monde méditerranéen. Paris: Hachette Littératures, 1996.

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    Based mainly on Genoese sources. Surveys sources of slaves, the slave trade, urban and rural slavery, the social status of slaves, and their prospects of manumission in late medieval Genoa.

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  • Livi, Carlo. Sardi en schiavitù nei secoli XII–XV. Florence: F. Cesare, 2002.

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    Sards, the inhabitants of Sardinia, were enslaved primarily in Genoa as a consequence of Genoa’s conflict with Pisa over control of the island and its shipping routes. Livi approaches this slaving network from the perspective of the Sards, a much-needed corrective to the Genoa-based work of past scholars.

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  • McKee, Sally. “Domestic Slavery in Renaissance Italy.” Slavery and Abolition 29 (2008): 305–326.

    DOI: 10.1080/01440390802267774Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A state-of-the-field survey of studies of medieval Italian slavery. Suitable for students as well as scholars seeking a quick and reasonably up-to-date introduction to the subject.

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  • Romano, Dennis. Housecraft and Statecraft: Domestic Service in Renaissance Venice, 1400–1600. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

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    Discusses the social and ideological significance of domestic service in Venetian households. To this end it considers enslaved and free servants together, though it recognizes the distinctions between them.

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  • Verlinden, Charles. The Beginnings of Modern Colonization. Translated by Yvonne Freccero. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1970.

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    A collection of essays arguing for continuity from late medieval Italian colonization of the Mediterranean, use of slave labor, and sugar cultivation to their early modern Iberian counterparts in the Americas.

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  • Williams, John. “From the Commercial Revolution to the State Revolution: The Development of Slavery in Medieval Genoa.” PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1995.

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    Although never published, Williams’s work (along with Epstein 2001) has become a starting point for scholars wanting an in-depth English-language study of slavery in medieval Italy. Williams focuses on economic aspects of the slave market and slave ownership in Genoa.

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The Mediterranean

The sheer magnitude and complexity of the slave trade in the Mediterranean sphere does not lend itself to surveys. McCormick 2001 (cited under Francia and the Holy Roman Empire) offers a broad perspective on slave trading and transportation in the early medieval period; Amitai 2008 and Barker 2019 focus on the eastern Mediterranean in the late medieval period. Other scholars have preferred a local or regional approach. Luttrell 1982 focuses on Rhodes; Arbel 1993 focuses on Cyprus (see also Dincer 2016, under Slavery and the Catholic-Orthodox Schism); Balletto’s chapter in Ferrer i Mallol and Mutgé i Vives 2000 (under Slavery across Religions) focuses on Chios. Kedar 1977 profiles a single Genoese merchant involved in the Mamluk slave trade. Köpstein 1966, Ringrose 2003, and Rotman 2009 focus on the Byzantine sphere. Other scholars have chosen to collaborate. Ferrer i Mallol and Mutgé i Vives 2000, Guillén and Trabelsi 2012, Schiel and Hanß 2014, and Amitai and Cluse 2017 (all under Slavery across Religions), in addition to Botte and Stella 2012 below, are coherent volumes addressing slavery across a wide range of Mediterranean societies, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, and the slave-related interactions between them.

  • Amitai, Reuven. “Diplomacy and the Slave Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean: A Re- examination of the Mamluk-Byzantine-Genoese Triangle in the Late Thirteenth Century in Light of the Existing Early Correspondence.” Oriente Moderno 88.2 (2008): 349–368.

    DOI: 10.1163/22138617-08802009Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A specialist in Mamluk rather than European history, Amitai draws on Arabic sources to demonstrate the diplomatic, political, and economic significance of Genoese involvement in the trade in Black Sea slaves from the Crimea to the Mamluk capital of Cairo.

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  • Arbel, Benjamin. “Slave Trade and Slave Labor in Frankish Cyprus (1191–1571).” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 14 (1993): 149–190.

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    Argues that islands are well suited to the study of Mediterranean slavery, since locals owned slaves but also facilitated regional and long-distance slave trades.

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  • Barker, Hannah. That Most Precious Merchandise: The Mediterranean Trade in Black Sea Slaves, 1260–1500. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019.

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    Drawing on sources in both Latin and Arabic, this book argues for a late medieval Mediterranean culture of slavery that crossed religious boundaries. It also describes a slave-trading network that carried several thousand slaves from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean each year without the involvement of specialist slave traders.

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  • Botte, Roger, and Alessandro Stella. Couleurs de l’esclavage sur les deux rives de la Méditerranée (Moyen Âge-XXe siècle). Paris: Éditions Karthala, 2012.

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    The first six chapters of this volume discuss slavery in the eastern Maghreb, al–Andalus, and Fatimid Ifriqiya as well as late medieval Sicily, Venice, Grenada, and Valencia. The emphasis is on the relationship between color, slave status, and the various types of labor required of slaves.

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  • Kedar, Benjamin. “Segurano-Sakran Salvaygo: un mercante genovese al servizio dei sultani mamalucchi, c. 1303-1322.” In Fatti e Idee di Storia Economica nei Secoli XII-XX: Studi dedicati a Franco Borlandi, 75–91. Bologna: Società editrice il Mulino, 1977.

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    Identifies Segurano Salvaygo, a diplomat and slave trader from a Genoese patrician family who served at the court of the Mamluk sultan al–Nāṣir Muḥammad ibn Qalawūn, as Sakrān, a Frankish diplomat and slave trader mentioned regularly in Mamluk chronicles of al–Nāṣir Muḥammad’s reign.

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  • Köpstein, Helga. Zur Sklaverei im ausgehenden Byzanz. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1966.

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    Surveys processes of enslavement, the labor and service performed by slaves, the juridical status of slavery, and forms of slave resistance from a Byzantine perspective. Includes several examples of Catholic Christians enslaved by Orthodox Christians, as well as the reverse.

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  • Luttrell, Anthony. “Slavery at Rhodes: 1306–1440.” In Latin Greece, the Hospitallers and the Crusades, 1291–1400. By Anthony Luttrell, 81–100. London: Variorum Reprints, 1982.

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    The Hospitallers as an order and the Master as an individual owned slaves for agricultural and domestic purposes, mainly Muslim Turks captured in the course of their crusading activities. Rhodes was also a site of regional and long-distance slave trade, as well as attempts to enforce the papal blockade against Christians trading slaves with Muslims.

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  • Ringrose, Kathryn. The Perfect Servant: Eunuchs and the Social Construction of Gender in Byzantium. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226720166.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that in the context of the Byzantine court, eunuchs functioned as a third gender but not as a third sex. In addition to describing the social construction of eunuchs as a gender, Ringrose profiles important eunuchs and explains the range of functions that they performed at court.

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  • Rotman, Youval. Byzantine Slavery and the Mediterranean World. Translated by Jane Marie Todd. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

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    Discusses the range of terms for unfree people in Byzantine society. Considers how much the unfree eunuch, urban artisan, or rural laborer truly had in common because of their legal status, and to what extent free people performed similar types of labor.

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Russia and Eastern Europe

Unfortunately, there is no survey of slavery in medieval Russia. Though Hellie 1982 contains material helpful for medievalists, its focus is on the early modern period. Witzenrath 2015 provides broader geographical and chronological coverage, but it is a collection rather than a unified survey. Balard 1978, Karpov 1986, and Małowist 2010 discuss the late medieval slave trade in the Black Sea, especially through the Genoese-controlled Crimean port of Caffa. Biran 2015 addresses the fate of captives taken in Russia and eastern Europe during the 13th-century Mongol invasions; Gillingham 2015 (under Slavery across Religions) briefly considers captives taken during the Baltic crusades. Evans 1985 and Stuard 1986 discuss the Adriatic trade in Balkan slaves. All of these works focus on the late medieval period; the earlier slave trade conducted by Scandinavians in the Baltic Sea and the river systems of what had not yet become Kievan Rus’ is discussed in McCormick 2001 (under Francia and the Holy Roman Empire) and Jankowiak 2017 (under Scandinavia and Britain).

  • Balard, Michel. La Romanie génoise (XIIe–début du XVe siécle). 2 vols. Genoa, Italy: Società ligure di storia patria, 1978.

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    A comprehensive survey of the Genoese colonial presence in the Black Sea, including an extensive discussion of the slave trade through Caffa and other Genoese-dominated ports.

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  • Biran, Michal. “Encounters among Enemies: Preliminary Remarks on Captives in Mongol Eurasia.” Archivum Eurasia Medii Aevi 21 (2015): 27–42.

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    Describes who was taken captive and under what circumstances, where they were taken, how they were treated, and the ways in which their experience as captives might end. Includes evidence from the unified Mongol state and all four successor states across Eurasia.

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  • Evans, Daniel. “The Slave Coast of Europe.” Slavery and Abolition 6 (1985): 41–58.

    DOI: 10.1080/01440398508574880Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that the Balkans was a source of slaves during the medieval period because it spent much of that time on the margins of larger, more powerful states: Byzantium, Venice, and the Ottoman Empire. Before the medieval period, when it was an integral part of the Roman Empire, and after the medieval period, when it became fully incorporated into the Ottoman sphere, the Balkans was no longer a preferred slaving zone.

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  • Hellie, Richard. Slavery in Russia, 1450–1725. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

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    Although this survey focuses on the early modern rather than the medieval period, it remains the best English-language starting point for the study of slavery in Russia and the relevant medieval sources.

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  • Karpov, Sergei. “Rabotorgovlia v iuzhnom prichernomor’e v pervoi polovine XV v. (preimushchestvenno po dannym massarii Kaffy).” Vizantiiskii Vremennik 46 (1986): 139–145.

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    This article provides the best account of the trade in slaves across the Black Sea from the Genoese colony of Caffa on the Crimean Peninsula to the Anatolian coast. Karpov has also published extensively in Russian, French, and English on the trade in slaves and other commodites through the Venetian settlement in Tana at the mouth of the Don River.

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  • Małowist, Marian. “Kaffa: The Genoese Colony in the Crimea and the Eastern Question (1453–1475).” In Western Europe, Eastern Europe and World Development, 13th–18th Centuries: Collected Essays of Marian Małowist. Edited by Jean Batou and Henryk Szlajfer, 101–132. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010.

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    This chapter is an English summary of Małowist’s classic book on the slave trade through Italian port colonies in the Black Sea, originally published in Polish in 1947.

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  • Stuard, Susan Mosher. “To Town to Serve: Urban Domestic Slavery in Medieval Ragusa.” In Women and Work in Preindustrial Europe. Edited by Barbara Hanawalt, 39–55. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

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    Although, as explained in Evans 1985, the Balkans exported slaves throughout the medieval period, urban households in Ragusa retained many slaves for their own use. As slave prices in Italy rose in the 14th century, Ragusans became more inclined to sell slaves for export and hire free servants instead.

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  • Witzenrath, Christoph. Eurasian Slavery, Ransom and Abolition in World History, 1200–1860. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2015.

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    This collection is devoted to slavery in Russia, the Ottoman Empire, and Central Asia during the medieval and early modern periods. Chapters focus on Russia, Finland, Poland, the Crimean Khanate, and the Ottoman Empire.

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Scandinavia and Britain

Scholarship on slavery in medieval Britain has had to contend with the popular belief, enshrined in “Rule Britannia,” that “Britons never will be slaves.” Pelteret 1995 and Wyatt 2009 present exhaustive evidence to the contrary. Both authors agree that the 11th century was marked by a decline in the prevalence of slavery in Britain, but they offer different explanations for this trend. Gillingham 2012 (under Slavery and Gender) shows that slave-taking in Britain continued as late as the 13th century. In Scandinavia, scholars of slavery have focused on the Viking period. Karras 1988 and Hernaes and Iversen 2002 highlight the roles played by slaves within Scandinavian societies; Holm 1989, Jankowiak 2017, and Raffield 2019 address the role played by Scandinavians as slavers and slave traders.

  • Hernaes, Per, and Tore Iversen. Slavery across Time and Space: Studies in Slavery in Medieval Europe and Africa. Trondheim, Norway: Department of History, NTNU, 2002.

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    This volume is the result of a 1998 conference held at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. It includes one chapter on slavery in England, one on canon law, and one on Germanic law, as well as three on slavery in medieval Norway.

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  • Holm, Poul. “The Slave Trade of Dublin, Ninth to Twelfth Centuries.” Perita 5 (1989): 317–345.

    DOI: 10.1484/J.Peri.3.139Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines the trade in Irish slaves conducted by Scandinavians. Irish people became enslaved through Viking raids, warfare among Irish kings, debt slavery, and the sale of children by their relatives. Some were sold regionally for Scandinavian use, while others entered the long-distance slave trade.

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  • Jankowiak, Marek. “What Does the Slave Trade in the Saqaliba Tell Us about Early Islamic Slavery?” International Journal of Middle East Studies 49.1 (2017):169–172.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0020743816001240Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Building on the work of McCormick 2001 (cited under Francia and the Holy Roman Empire), this brief contribution to a roundtable discussion suggests a connection between the Slavic slaves prominent in 9th- through 11th-century Islamic courts and the dirham hoards from the same era found across Scandinavia. Jankowiak is a member of the research group Dirhams for Slaves hosted by the University of Oxford.

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  • Karras, Ruth Mazo. Slavery and Society in Medieval Scandinavia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988.

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    This book is an indispensable reference for the ideology and practice of slavery in medieval Scandinavia, covering the vocabulary of slavery, slavery as a legal status, uses of slave labor, resistance, and manumission.

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  • Pelteret, David. Slavery in Early Medieval England: From the Reign of Alfred until the Twelfth Century. Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 1995.

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    This book surveys the status of slaves and practices of slavery in early medieval England through a wide variety of sources. It argues that agricultural slavery died out as an unintended consequence of changes in land ownership and management after the Norman Conquest, and that serfs emerged as a class in the 11th century through convergence of the legal privileges accorded to free and unfree peasants.

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  • Raffield, Ben. “The Slave Markets of the Viking World: Comparative Perspectives on an ‘Invisible Archaeology.’” Slavery and Abolition 40 (2019): 1–24.

    DOI: 10.1080/0144039X.2019.1592976Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Provides an archeological perspective on slave-taking by Viking raiders, transportation of slaves, and slave markets during the 8th through 11th centuries.

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  • Wyatt, David. Slaves and Warriors in Medieval Britain and Ireland, 800–1200. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004175334.i-460Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In contrast to Pelteret 1995, Wyatt dates the end of slavery in Britain to the 11th century in connection with the Gregorian reform movement. His historiographical introduction is particular helpful for grasping the ongoing effects of abolitionist thought on the study of slavery in Britain.

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