Slavery in Middle Ages

Oct 2011
518
Croatia
I know that slavery continued in Europe even after the fall of Western Roman Empire - including in the eastern Roman Empire. Among other things, I found this. It also appears that 10% of people in Domesday Book were slaves. However, my understanding is that while institution itself was not abolished, slavery became quite rare in Roman Empire by 7th century. In Poland, slavery was forbidden in 1529. at the latest, and was extremely rare even before that time. In Ottoman Empire, it continued until 20th century, and in Romania until 19th century.
 
Nov 2016
1,331
Germany
Some excerpts from a German study on the subject of slavery in Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, translated by me with Google Translate:

(from: Undine Ott - Europas Sklavinnen und Sklaven im Mittelalter / Europe´s Slaves in the Middle Ages)

(...)

The ruling consensus so far is that at the latest since the beginning of the 9th century a far-reaching slave trade has developed which brought people from Eastern Europe into the Islamic world. The proceeds from this trade flowed primarily to the political elites of Eastern Central and Eastern Europe in the form of silver. In contrast to the Migration Period, according to Matthias Hardt, the elites of the region could no longer profit from the precious metal-filled treasure troves of the Roman Empire, but were dependent on new resources to procure material riches with which they could visualize their rule and reward their followers. The new source of the wealth of Slavic and Old Russian princes had consisted in silver coins, bars and jewellery, as was the case in large numbers in the eastern Europe, some of them extremely extensive, from the 9th and 10th centuries. Since the coins and coin fragments in the hoards of the eastern and northern Europe, especially from Central Asia, Iran, the Middle East and North Africa, must have been an active trade between those Islamic dominated countries where the coins had been minted and the regions where the silver treasures were hidden in the earth. As an export product, which was valuable enough to serve as an equivalent for the Islamic silver coins, the dirham, human beings would be the main candidates.
(...)
In summary, slavery was a widespread phenomenon in eastern Europe during the Early and High Middle Ages. Those affected had fallen into slavery because they had not been able to raise sufficient funds to pay their debts, or had violated the law and been enslaved as punishment. Some became slaves because their parents inherited this status from them, others were sold by their relatives. Many had also been kidnapped by ruling warriors or independent slave catchers in robbery and war campaigns and subsequently negotiated. Slaves were used in agriculture or in the household. Women and girls also often had to be of sexual service to their owners and were sometimes concubines of their masters. Victim slavery was also not unknown in eastern Europe.
(...)
In the overall view, however, the rural Western Europe, the transition there from slavery to serfdom (if one does not want the latter to be understood as slavery, because it did not mean spatial deportation and social uprooting for those affected) and the legal prohibition of the sale of Christian subjects forced by the secular and above all the spiritual elites appear to be exceptional.
 
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Nov 2016
1,331
Germany
By the way:

One should not forget that even in today's Europe there is a form of slavery in the form of forced prostitution. The estimated total number is over 1 million, half a million of them in Russia, 130,000 in Poland and 110,000 in Ukraine. In Germany there are said to be about 10,000 victims of this enslavement.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,904
Blachernai
The study of Byzantine slavery is rather poor, and not quite up to the standard set for late Roman slavery. So the jury is still out, but it's worth remarking that Islamic sources see Constantinople as a great slave-trading hub, which certainly makes me suspect that it was something the Greek sources were less than keen to talk about. The terminology is a problem - doulos is just as frequently attested as used by high officials referring to them slaves of God, so determining someone's legal status based on the employment of such loose terminology is a problem.
 
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Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,730
It seems the idea that slaves shouldn't be Christian or Muslim when in either religion's sphere was fairly well established by the mid medieval era but it is apparent from the records that this seems to have been accompanied quite often by a wink and a nod when it suited the ruling administrators. The the cross border trade of slaves funded the rise of Venice and Genoa in particular is fairly well documented.

The other factor is that the main source of slaves in the Roman era was from war, in the medieval era if the men captured between co-religious enemies weren't of high enough rank they were simply killed rather than put into slavery.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,872
Cornwall
It seems the idea that slaves shouldn't be Christian or Muslim when in either religion's sphere was fairly well established by the mid medieval era but it is apparent from the records that this seems to have been accompanied quite often by a wink and a nod when it suited the ruling administrators. The the cross border trade of slaves funded the rise of Venice and Genoa in particular is fairly well documented.

The other factor is that the main source of slaves in the Roman era was from war, in the medieval era if the men captured between co-religious enemies weren't of high enough rank they were simply killed rather than put into slavery.
Obviously this is another vast and sweeping subject. But captives in raids or small battles, not necessarily war as such, were an economic commodity to be sold. Those or higher rank were ransomed - a much more lucrative enterprise.

All depends of course on whether the man in charge wanted to take them back as slaves or kill them I guess. Which is why 'slavery in Europe' is a pretty unachievable topic
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,160
Portugal
In the Iberian Peninsula during the Reconquista (this means basically during all the Middle Ages) there was slavery, a great part a consequence of the raids that the factions made.

For simplicity reasons we divide the Reconquista as a fight between two religious factions, but that simplification will hide that there was trade, even slave trade, between the two.

The Muslims had more sources, slaves arrived from Africa (both North and Sub-Saharan) and East Europe (Slavs, Greeks and Circassians), besides the raids.

The Cristian main source seemed to be raids that made captives on Muslim lands (Christians and non-Christians), and later on the Canary Islands, but the enslavement of Christians dropped considerably in time.

I recall a passage on the hagiography of Theotonius (Vita Theotonii), when the Portuguese king, D. Afonso Henriques, returned to Coimbra after a successful raid (cavalgada), carrying goods, cattle and slaves, the saint saw that the slaves were Christians and begged to the king for their release. And the king agreed… after all we are reading a hagiography. The saint is the hero, not the king.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,872
Cornwall
The Slavs were sold courtesy of the Franks to the Caliphate and Almanzor. Almohads etc had their own sources.

All this you speak of Tulius is of course relatively recent (post-crusading mentality).

There is something we might (possibly) deduce from the turbulent 8th century and the whole muslim takeover - the Visigothic economy (albeit collapsing), was very dependent on slaves working all the farms and businesses - even the 'free men' who were in practice unable to leave said fincas with any possessions, wealth or relatives. So when the arabs come along and abolish their slave status another massive and ready market of 'friends', glad to see the back of the haughty and brutal Visigoths (along with the oppressed jews who also aided the invasion)
 

Ficino

Ad Honorem
Apr 2012
7,035
Romania
I know that slavery continued in Europe even after the fall of Western Roman Empire - including in the eastern Roman Empire. Among other things, I found this. It also appears that 10% of people in Domesday Book were slaves. However, my understanding is that while institution itself was not abolished, slavery became quite rare in Roman Empire by 7th century. In Poland, slavery was forbidden in 1529. at the latest, and was extremely rare even before that time. In Ottoman Empire, it continued until 20th century, and in Romania until 19th century.
Slavery in the Romanian lands was abolished before the establishment of the Romanian state (so there was no slavery "in Romania"), and at least during the last centuries of its existence it was exclusively limited to ethnic Gypsies.