Medieval Mediterranean Slavery
During what we call the Middle Ages, slavery was a fact of life everywhere around the Mediterranean basin, in Latin Europe and Byzantium, in Islamic lands as well as in the Jewish communities living among Christians and Muslims.
Slavery has been an important, perhaps decisive, theme in world history until the modern period and to a certain degree until today. Unpaid, forced labor was fundamental to the economy and social life of most pre-modern societies and still played a significant role in most of the world through much of the nineteenth century. Even today, in spite of almost universal condemnation, pockets of legal or de facto slavery are found in some countries.
Not only during the Ancient period but also in what we call the Middle Ages, slavery was a fact of life everywhere around the Mediterranean basin, in Latin Europe and Byzantium, in Islamic lands as well as in the Jewish communities living among Christians and Muslims.
“The Mediterranean, central to the development of human civilization and lovingly celebrated in Euro-American historiography, from the viewpoint of human oppression has been a veritable vortex of horror for all mankind, especially for the Slavic and African peoples. The relationship was in no way accidental.” (Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death, 1982, p. 171)
Slavery in the medieval Mediterranean is much less extensively researched than slavery in ancient Rome or in the American South of the modern period. However, it is a fascinating topic for comparative, inter-disciplinary research.
This website is designed to provide a bibliography, a selection of sources, and a calendar of scientific events relating to medieval Mediterranean slavery. We also intend to publish results of ongoing research here (research papers, abstracts of conference proceedings, and so forth). Please feel free to browse, or use the search engine (in the upper right corner) when looking for particular entries (e.g., in the bibliography).
If you want to make additions to the bibliography or calendar of events, please contact one of the site managers. It is also possible for you to get a user-ID and password if you like to become a regular contributor.
We gratefully acknowledge the support by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (G.I.F.).