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Slave Trading in the British Isles and the Czech Lands, 7th-11th Centuries

Slave Trading in the British Isles and the Czech Lands, 7th-11th Centuries

By Janel Marie Fontaine

PhD Dissertation, King’s College London, 2017

Detail of a pen drawing illustrating Psalm 122: the female slave and her mistress (right) and a master holds up a sword to two male slaves (left) – British Library MS Harley 603 f. 65

Abstract: This thesis examines slave trading from a regional, comparative perspective for the British Isles and the Czech lands, from the seventh through eleventh centuries. The aim is to add nuance to the picture of the early medieval slave trade by distinguishing between different possible aims, forms of organisation, and trading practices across time and space. The first chapter examines textual sources and outlines the types of material in which slave trading can be found, along with their limitations. The second looks at archaeological ‘indicators’ for slave trading which are commonly taken for granted, but which have never been examined together. It functions alongside the first chapter to provide a comprehensive discussion of source material for the medieval slave trade in these two regions.

A chapter on methods of enslavement outlines the creation of chattel slaves, emphasising the role of warfare, as well as the symbolic, political, and economic motivations behind raiding. Following from this, a chapter on small-scale slave trading examines opportunistic slave sales which were the by-product of raiding, whereas a chapter on large-scale slave trading studies the long-distance trade networks and economic demand for slaves which began to motivate raiding. These studies of scale examine who conducted the raiding, who traded slaves, and whether points of trade can be identified.

The final chapter on the role of centralised authority seeks to determine how and by whom slavery was accepted and upheld, to better understand possible links between enslavement regulations and processes of political consolidation, as well as the role of religion in determining suitability for enslavement, sale, and slave ownership. This research contributes to our understanding of the role of slave trading within the social, political, and economic development of the British Isles and the Czech lands in the early Middle Ages.

Click here to read this thesis from King’s College London

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