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Alfred Haverkamp (2005)

Die Erneuerung der Sklaverei im Mittelmeerraum während des hohen Mittelalters. Fremdheit, Herkunft und Funktion

In: Unfreie Arbeits- und Lebensverhältnisse von der Antike bis in die Gegenwart, ed. by Elisabeth Herrmann-Otto, pp. 130-166, Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim, Zürich, New York. Sklaverei, Knechtschaft, Zwangsarbeit. Untersuchungen zur Sozial-, Rechts- und Kulturgeschichte, vol. 1.

Following a short survey of the state of research and comments on its recent focal points (p. 130-31) the author analyses aspects of the development of slavery in the ‘High Middle Ages’, mainly the 12th and 13th centuries. He focuses on the most important commercial centres in Northern and Central Italy, above all Genoa and its fondachi in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Haverkamp first (p. 134-40) defends his choice of the term “renewal (‘Erneuerung’), which is less controversial than ‘Renaissance’, for a broader contextualization of slavery” (p. 132). Despite its importance as a theological, philosophical, social and legal phenomenon, the subject of slavery has hardly been taken into consideration when discussing the concepts of ‘Renaissance’, ‘renovatio’, and ‘revival’. Elements of the Roman law of late antiquity found entry in the practice of the public notary. “[The notary's products, the notarial charters and registers (Imbreviaturbücher) constitute, from the 12th century, by far the most substantial body of sources for, among others, the history of slavery in the Mediterranean” (p. 136). The author argues that slavery, while experiencing a decline or demise in the Northern parts of Western and Central Europe, received a decisive impetus in the Mediterranean, above all in Italy. This was caused by the expansion to the East in the context of the Crusades and the connected social and economic changes that interacted with a revival of ancient structures.

The terminological development of the concept of ‘slave’ is sketched in the second paragraph (p. 140-42), down to the replacement of the ancient designations (“servus”, “mancipium”, “ancilla” and δούλος) by the terms σχλάβος or “sclavus” and “sclava” respectively, at the turn of the 13th century.

The third part (p. 142-51) considers slavery, proceeding from these initial reflections, reflecting on the degree to which slaves remained strangers, on their origin and function, and on the effects these constituents had on the slave status. “Strangeness ('Fremdheit') is here understood as the 'definition of a relationship' between two individuals or groups, in which otherness (das Anderssein) is either given or merely ascribed and in which this otherness is also perceived of, or more or less explicitly portrayed, as ‘unfamiliar, unknown, new’ or even disturbing, if not hostile” (p. 132). To what extent the individual slaves remained strangers in the culturally and often also religiously new environment into which they were transported, largely depended on their functional integration. Haverkamp sketches the different forms in which slaves were dependent in mining, on galleys, in the work on the fields, to the slavery at court and in the trade and households. Households allowed for a particularly close bond between the slave and his/her owner. “This close connection was ambivalent: It entailed for slaves, above all if they were female, the danger of arbitrary treatment and abuse (behind walls and hence largely beyond control), particulary on the part of the slave holder. On the other hand, it entailed chances towards some humanization of the slavish dependence and, hence, towards a limitation of exploitation” (p. 150).

With detailed references to domestic slavery in Genoa, Haverkamp discusses in a fourth paragraph (p. 151-56) manumissions of female and male slaves and their legal and social repercussions. Important were economic factors, as the economic status of the master and the market value of the slaves, as well as social (personal) relations and, to a lesser degree, religious motives. Conditions attached to manumission (service contracts, integration into the Christian environment) are mentioned. “For these reasons, domestic slavery [...] depended on ‘importing’ slaven, especially women slaves who were preferred for work in the house and family, through trade. This necessitated new acts of imprisonment of people in distant or 'strange' regions. The social milieus of the house and of small business, too, constantly reproduced the status of slavery” (p. 155).

The fifth and concluding part of the article (p. 156-59) states that enslavements as a consequence of wars and other acts of violence in the regions linked to the Mediterranean continued to exist and even increased after the 11th and 12th centuries. This is seen in connection with the demand for slave labour (and, as a complementary phenomenon, the use of young enslaved men in Muslim armies) and the slave trade it supported, in which Genoese traders played a decisive role.

9th century 10th century 11th century 12th century 13th century 14th century renovatio domestic slavery manumission Genoa Italy
by Christine Breckler last modified 2009-03-29 15:28

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