Theses Doctoral

Egyptian and Italian Merchants in the Black Sea Slave Trade, 1260-1500

Barker, Hannah

The present study examines the merchant networks which exported slaves from the Black Sea to Genoa, Venice, and Cairo from the late thirteenth to the late fifteenth century on the basis of both Arabic and Latin sources. It begins with an explanation of features distinctive to slavery in the medieval Mediterranean, the most important of which was its ideological basis in religious rather than racial difference, as well as a comparison between the Christian and Islamic laws governing slavery. In subsequent chapters it covers the variety of roles played by slaves in Mediterranean society, how the use of individual slaves was shaped by their gender and origin, and the processes which led to the enslavement of people within the Black Sea region. The heart of the project is the fourth chapter, an analysis of the commercial networks which conveyed slaves from the ports of the Black Sea to those of the Mediterranean. This chapter profiles individual merchants who dealt in slaves, traces the routes and identifies the logistical challenges of the slave trade, and analyzes the relative importance of various groups of merchants in supplying the Mediterranean demand for slaves. The next chapter explains the process of finding, inspecting, and buying a slave in the marketplace and how it differed from the purchase of other commodities. The final chapter addresses the place of the Black Sea slave trade in the political and religious context of the late medieval crusade movement. Proponents of the crusades argued that Christian merchants, especially the Genoese, were strengthening the sultan of Egypt to the detriment of the crusaders by supplying him with slaves for military service. The validity of these accusations is examined in light of the sources informing the rest of the study.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Kosto, Adam J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014