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Zofia Kowalska (1998)

Handel niewolnikami prowadzony przez Żydów w IX-XI wieku w Europie [Jewish Slave Traders in Europe in the 9th-11th Century]

In: Niewolnictwo i niewolnicy w Europie od starożytności p czasy nowożytne: pokłosie sesji zorganizowanej przez Instytut Historii Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego w Krakowie, w dniach 18-19 grudnia 1997 roku, ed. by Danuta Quirini-Popławska, pp. 81-91, Wydawn. Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, Krakau. Varia, vol. 381.

p. 91-2: “In the early Middle Ages the Jews kept a high profile in various branches of long-distance and overseas trade, in which slaves were, for at least three hundred years, the chief commodity. The chronological boundaries of this study, i.e. the period between “circa” 800 and 1100, reflect the dates of origin and historical scope of the sources that have been consulted. A presentation of the source materials, which constitute one of the main elements of this article, precedes a close textual analysis aimed at identifying, first, the territorial range and routes of the Jewish slave trade, and, second, the possible causes of it being abandoned in favour of trade in other goods or new forms of business.

The accounts of travellers (Ibn Kordabheh, Ibrahim ibn Yacub), passages in the works of other Arab and Jewish authors (Ibn Haukal, Ibrahim al Quarawi, Yehuda ben Meir ha-Kohen), documents issued by ecclesiastical and secular authorities, charters of municipal privileges and customs tariffs build up a massive body of evidence corroborating the involvement of the Jews in the slave trade. Their “goods” came mostly from the Slav nations; their trade routes led to and crossed in Eastern and Central Europe. Slaves of Slav origin would be taken westwards across the Frankish lands to Arab Spain and from there to other countries in the Mediterranean. The main centres of the slave trade were Prague (from the 10th century onwards); Magdeburg, Merseburg, Mainz and Koblenz in Germany; Verdun in northern France and a number of towns in southern France.

In spite of the vociferous debates that the slave trade provoked in both secular and church circles, the Jews were undismayed and went on with their business. The reasons of its rapid decline at the beginning of the 12th centrury must be sought in the social and economic changes that took Europe into the High Middle Ages. While the mushrooming towns with their new merchant class were consolidating their position, the situation of the Jews was steadily deteriorating, a development which was also influenced by the emotional climate of the Crusades.The economic and social transformations which began in the 12th century led to a gradual drop of demand for imported servile labour in Western and Northern Europe; in the south, where the demand hardly altered, the most of the slave business passed into the hands of Italian merchants. The Jews moved on to trading in other goods or to the business of money-lending. The latter was an attractive option at a time when secured loans were becoming more and more popular.”

jews slave trade 9th century 10th century 11th century
by Christine Breckler last modified 2006-10-31 17:37

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