slavery in early and medieval iberia cover

Slavery in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia

New book presents an overall introduction to slavery in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia

Slavery in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia
William D. Phillips, Jr.
University of Pennsylvania Press 2014
ISBN 978-0-8122-4491-5
ISBN 978-0-8122-0917-4
A volume in the Middle Ages Series


The Iberian peninsula played a pivotal role in ushering in new systems of slavery in the late Middle Ages and early modern period. Engaging and clear, this book is the first comprehensive treatment of the topic and provides an entry into what it must have been like to be a slave in Medieval Iberia

The enslaved population of medieval Iberia composed only a small percentage of the general populace at any given point, and slave labour was not essential to the regional economy during the period. Yet slaves were present in Iberia from the beginning of recorded history until the early modern era, and the regulations and norms for slavery and servitude shifted as time passed and kingdoms rose and fell.

The Romans brought their imperially sanctioned forms of slavery to the Iberian peninsula, and these were adapted by successive Christian kingdoms during the Middle Ages. The Muslim conquest of Iberia introduced new ideas about slavery and effected an increase in slave trade. During the later Middle Ages and the early modern period, slave owners in Christian Spain and Portugal maintained slaves at home, frequently captives taken in wars and sea raids; they also exported their slave systems to colonies across the Atlantic.

The book covers the vast field through six chapters, where the first is a general introduction to the history of slavery in Iberia, while the next five outlines the history of slaves as such answering a series of questions:

  • What did it take to become a slave?
  • How was the traffic in slaves organised?
  • How did slaves live?
  • What did it mean to work as slave?
  • How might a slave obtain freedom?

Slavery in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia provides a magisterial survey of the many forms of bound labour in Iberia from ancient times to the decline of slavery in the eighteenth century. William D. Phillips, Jr., examines the pecuniary and legal terms of slavery from purchase to manumission. He pays particular attention to the conditions of life for the enslaved, which, in a religiously diverse society, differed greatly for Muslims and Christians as well as for men and women. This sweeping narrative will become the definitive account of slavery in a place and period that deeply influenced the forms of forced servitude that shaped the New World.

William D. Phillips, Jr., is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Minnesota and author of A Concise History of Spain.






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