Gniezno Cathedral Doors detail : Saint Adalbertus liberate Slavic Slaves from Jewish Merchants. Wikipedia

Slavery in Early Medieval Hungary

In Hungary – c. 850 – 1301 – slavery was a significant feature of the way in which agricultural production was organized. New book compares slavery in Árpád-era Hungary and Carolingian France.

Slavery in early Arpad Hungary coverThe nomadic Hungarians arrived in the Carpathian Basin at the end of the ninth century. In the following century, significant changes occurred which led to their survival as a distinct political entity. These changes involved the adoption of western modes of power, including centralization under a single monarch, consolidation of political power, and Christianization in part as a means of ideological legitimacy, including creating a royal saint out of one the founders (Stephen).

This period is called Árpád-era Hungary after Árpád, who was the son of Álmos who is mentioned as the first head of the confederation of the Hungarian tribes by all Hungarian chronicles. His name derived from the Hungarian word for barley (árpa).

In Slavery in Árpád-era Hungary in a Comparative Context, Cameron Sutt examines servile labour in the first three centuries of the Hungarian kingdom and compares it with dependent labour in Carolingian Europe. Such comparative methodology provides a particularly clear view of the nature of dependent labour in both regions.

Using legislation as well as charter evidence, Sutt establishes that lay landlords of Árpádian Hungary frequently relied upon slaves to work their land, but the situation in Carolingian areas was much more complex. The use of slave labour in Hungary continued until the end of the thirteenth century when a combination of economic and political factors brought it to an end.


  • Introduction
  • Árpádian Hungary and the Land
  • Servi during the Reign of Stephen i
  • Servi during the Reigns of Ladislas i and Coloman
  • Servi as Res
  • Labour Obligations of Servi and Mancipia
  • Servus and Mancipium Families
  • The Disappearance of Servi in Hungary
  • Conclusions


Cameron Sutt, Ph.D. (2008), is Associate Professor of History at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. He has published several articles on Árpád-era Hungary, including papers on inheritance practices, land use and social transformation, and the position of women. In 2014 he published an overview of the history of Árpád-era Hungary in History Compass.


The Early Árpáds (895–1095): Consolidation, Christianization, Monarchy
By Cameron Sutt
In: History Compass, 2014, Vol.12(2), pp.150-159


Bishop Adalbert calls on Jewish merchants to buy the freedom of Christian. Relief from the the Gniezno Doors, a pair of bronze doors at the entrance to Gniezno Cathedral in Gniezno, Poland. They were made in about 1175 during the reign of Mieszko III the Old and are one of the most significant works of Romanesque art in Poland. The relief is a rare rendering of slaves from the Early Middle Ages (Although not from Hungary it is used here). Source: Wikipedia



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