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Jeffrey Fynn-Paul (2008)

Tartars in Spain: renaissance slavery in the Catalan city of Manresa, c.1408

Journal of Medieval History, 34:347-359.


This article presents a summary and analysis of the slaves and slave owners who were living in a particular late medieval city at a particular time. The data for this overview comes from the 1408 Liber Manifesti of Manresa, a tax document which is quite similar to the Florentine Catasto of 1427. Unlike the Catasto, however, the Liber Manifesti consistently designates slaves as distinct from other servants. As a result, the Manresan document allows us to know many basic but often elusive figures such as the total number of slaves in our town, the proportion of slaves to free people, the percentage of households who owned slaves, the proportion of women and children amongst slaves, and even the market value of female, male, and child slaves vis à vis the cost of hiring a domestic servant. Access to such an unusually complete sample also enables us to make some fresh assertions about the extent and nature of renaissance slavery as a whole. Several of Iris Origo's influential observations, which still stand as a benchmark of renaissance slavery some 50 years after they were presented, are here both corroborated and challenged. For example, to what extent did renaissance slave owners pair male slaves with female slaves, as Origo's anecdotal evidence suggested? Our sample also provides invaluable data on the wealth, occupations, and family background of slave owners. We can gain some insight into the phenomenon of women as slave owners, and also coordinate slave owning with urban political power. In addition we can suggest an answer to the elusive question of just how much of a ‘luxury item’ slaves really were in the post-Black Death Mediterranean. In Manresa, as it turns out, slave owners were anything but a uniform block of ‘wealthy townspeople.’


Abstract provided by author / journal.

Catalonia Manresa Iberia Fourteenth Century Fifteenth Century Urban Women
by Christoph Cluse last modified 2009-03-23 13:06

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