By Robert I. Burns
Sharq Al-Andalus, No. 14-15 (1997-1998)
Introduction: Muslim slaves in the medieval realms of Aragon were not Mudejars – members of a community surrendering under a treaty of privilege. Just as Mudejars formed a parallel society to the Christian, so did Muslim slaves constitute a kind of society parallel to the Mudejars. The unfree Muslim was not a member of a community, however, but a lone individual under the jurisdiction of the domestic Christian or Jewish paterfamilias, an integral component of the family which also owned him. When Alfonso X el Sabio compiled his encyclopedic code the Siete partidas in the later thirteenth century, he placed his explicit treatment of slaves within the partida on domestic arrangements, after parents, godparents, and children, and just before those more ambiguously familial components, the vassal and the friend. Slavery crops up continuously throughout the Partidas in many other contexts, of course; but it finds its primary locus in the treatment of the family.