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Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Mediterranean Region during the Medieval Period (1000–1500)

by Annika Stello last modified 2008-06-05 09:01

Case Studies in Christian-Muslim-Jewish Interaction (German-Israeli Minerva School 2007)

What Convention
When 2007-09-02 00:00 to
2007-09-07 00:00
Where The Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Contact Name Christoph Cluse, Reuven Amitai
Contact Email
Attendees amitai, cluse, et al.
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Conference report by F. Tramontana can be found in: Quaderni Storici 126 XLII, n.3, dec. 2007, pp. 947-953, and on this website.


All around the Mediterranean Sea, slavery was a fact of life during the medieval period. Scholars have rarely tried to compare its various appearances in societies under Christian and Muslim rule, or paid sufficient attention to the points of economic and cultural interchange, particularly in the slave trade. We are therefore proposing an interdisciplinary German-Israeli Minerva School on ‘medieval Mediterranean slavery,’ concentrating on the period between 1000 to 1500 C.E., a time spanning more or less from the renaissance of the trans-Mediterranean trade to the changes wrought by the discovery of the New World by Europeans. Occasional glimpses back into the period before the year 1000 will of course be necessary.

Slavery and the slave trade (two separate, but related and inseparable subjects) will be examined in three cultural contexts over a five hundred year period, from a variety of methodological perspectives. The Mediterranean is defined in a wide fashion, not only those areas that directly border it, but also those greatly influenced by its proximity. The lessons will move from detailed analysis of texts to broad discussions of inter and trans-cultural phenomena. The main fields of study – European medieval history, Byzantine, Islamic and Jewish studies – are characterized by different emphases in the available documentation. Historians of slavery in medieval Italy and Iberia, for example, have largely based their studies on the tens of thousands of notarial registers and charters that have come down to us from the medieval period. These naturally favor studies in economic history. On the other hand, few such documents survive from the Muslim lands around the Mediterranean Sea, whereas these areas offer a wealth of material for students of Islamic religious law (fiqh). The survival and discovery of the Cairo Geniza has opened entirely new ways for exploring the communities of the Jewish minority around the Mediterranean Sea, and so forth.

A rough outline:

Session 1: The Background to Medieval Mediterranean Slavery: Religion, Law, and Ideology

Session 2: Mediterranean Slavery and Political Rule

Session 3: The Slave Trade in the Mediterranean World

Session 4: Case Studies for the Social Conditions of Slavery

The School is funded by the Minerva Foundation and organised in conjunction with the Institute of Advanced Studies, the School of History, and the Nehemia Levtzion Center for Islamic Studies (all at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and of the Arye Maimon-Institut für Geschichte der Juden, and the Graduate Research School (Graduiertenkolleg) 846 “Sklaverei” (both at the University of Trier).

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