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Slavery in Egypt under the Mamluks  

Adam Ali

The Muslim polity commonly referred to as the Mamluk Sultanate ruled Egypt and Syria during the late medieval period (1250–1517). Slaves played a big role at every level of society in Mamluk Egypt. A slave’s race, origins, and network (if he had one) determined the prospects of his life and career. Most slaves formed the lowest stratum in society as domestic servants and laborers. Such slaves could be Africans, Caucasians, Turks, Europeans, Greeks, Armenians, or Mongols. However, some slaves occupied the highest positions. These military slaves, the mamluks, dominated the army and the government and formed a military-political elite caste in Egyptian society. In fact, so-called military slaves played an important role in the history of the Muslim world for a millennium, starting from the 9th century. Even after the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517, the mamluks continued to exist as an elite socio-military class in Egypt.

Article

Routes to Emancipation in Egypt and the Sudan  

Ahmad Alawad Sikainga

In addition to the fact that the Sudan was a major source of slaves for Egypt for several centuries, Ottoman Egypt conquered and ruled the Sudan from 1820 until 1884 when Egypt was expelled from the country by the Mahdist revolution, which established an independent state in Sudan. However, the Mahdist state was overthrown in 1898 by Britain and Egypt, who established a joint administration that ruled the Sudan until 1956. Although slavery and the slave trade existed in the Sudan for many centuries, they reached a peak during the 19th century due to the policies of the Ottoman-Egyptian government. Slavery continued to persist under the Mahdist state and for several decades after the establishment of the Anglo-Egyptian administration. British antislavery policies focused mainly on combating the slave trade but adopted a gradual approach to the abolition of slavery. However, the expansion of the colonial economy and the wage labor market, the actions of the slaves themselves, and international pressure prompted the colonial government to take active measures to emancipate the slaves during the interwar period. Slavery was also an ancient institution in Egypt, dating back to the pre-Islamic era. Slaves obtained from various locations, including Eastern Europe and Africa, played major roles under the successive Muslim dynasties that ruled Egypt. However, the growth of slave trade and the widespread use of slaves in the 19th century was a direct result of the Ottoman-Egyptian conquest of the Sudan. Slavery thrived in Egypt but changes in the Egyptian economy and the labor system, public opinion, and growing internal pressure led to its demise toward the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Article

Southern Sudanese Systems of Slavery  

Scopas Poggo

Prior to arrival of the Turco-Egyptian officials, Europeans, Egyptians, Syrians, Sudanese, and ivory and slave traders to the Southern Sudan, the Indigenous people of this region engaged in slave trade and had their own systems of slavery. The abundance of ivory in Southern Sudan, attracted a large number of Khartoum-based merchants into the South. As ivory depleted, these merchants shifted to trading African slaves throughout Southern Sudan and beyond. In 1805, Muhammad Ali became the ruler of Egypt, and in 1821, he sent military expeditions to the Sudan to colonize it. Because Ali came to power without any funds, ivory and slaves became the main source of revenue for his government, which led to the huge expansion of the slave trade throughout the Turkiyya. Due to the corruption, violence, and injustice that existed throughout the Turkiyya, the Mahdist Movement emerged in 1881 to destroy this alien government. In 1898, an Anglo-Egyptian military force invaded the Sudan with the primary aim of destroying the Mahdist State and abolishing the slave trade and slavery. However, in the mid-1980s, during the Second Civil War in the Sudan between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and Sudan Armed Forces (1983–2005), the slave trade in South Sudan resurged under the direction of the government of the national Islamic front and Northern Sudanese ethnic groups such as the Baqqara and Rizeiqat.

Article

Zubair Pasha  

Scopas Poggo

Zubair Pasha, also known as Zubair Rahma al-Mansur, was a Ja’aliyin: descendants of the Arabs from Arabia who immigrated to Egypt in the 13th century and settled along the Nile in Nubia. The Ja’aliyin and their Nubian counterparts, the Danaqla and Shayqiyya, engaged in agriculture along the Nile before the Turco-Egyptian invasion of Bilad al-Sudan (land of the blacks) in 1820. Equipped with European weapons, the Egyptians imposed their hegemony on Arab, Nubian, and black people who inhabited regions along the Blue and White Niles. Muhammad Ali, the new viceroy of Egypt, wanted to declare independence from the Turkish Ottoman Empire and establish a modern government in Egypt using a European system of government, economy, and military technology. This could only be realized by having access to mineral, human, and animal resources in the Sudan. Thus, Turco-Egyptian soldiers and officials and various European, Egyptian, Syrian, and northern Sudanese Arabs and Nubians ventured to southern Sudan in the period 1839–1885. Sailing boats, steamers, camels, and horses gave these foreigners access to various parts of southern Sudan: Upper Nile, Equatoria, and Bahr al-Ghazal Provinces. The early search for slaves gave way to the acquisition of ivory, which was abundant and fetched lucrative profits in Egypt. As numerous elephants were hunted, the amount of ivory dwindled. Hence, these wealthy merchants together with the jellaba (Arab petty merchants) resorted to the massive enslavement of the African people in southern Sudan and beyond.

Article

Slavery in Pharaonic and Hellenistic Egypt  

Antonio Loprieno

Many forms of coercion to labor and restriction of individual freedom existed throughout Egyptian history. Literary texts present figures of slaves, called ḥm (“laborer”) or bȝk (“servant”). The documentary evidence is historically multifaceted: during the Old Kingdom (c.2700–2200 bce), very large segments of the population were drawn to compulsory work, exemptions being reserved for religious service, while foreign prisoners of war were explicitly enslaved (sqr-ᶜnḫ). Together with the emergence of new social elites, the Middle Kingdom (c.2100–1700 bce) displays a more distinct consciousness of the difference between free people at a lower social level (nḏs), servants (ḥm, bȝk), conscripts (ḥsb), and fugitives (tšj), whereas true slavery continued to be limited to foreign prisoners. In the New Kingdom (c.1550–1050 bce), large-scale foreign slavery derived from military campaigns, while a locally owned or rented servitude became economically indispensable. During this period, the adoption of a slave was a common practice, leading to “free” status (nmḥj). During the 1st millennium bce, references to slavery become rare and are superseded by various forms of voluntary servitude caused by economic dearth or religious self-commitment. Slavery in the legal, hereditary sense of the term unfolded during the Hellenistic and Roman Period (332 bce–395 ce) and derived from military campaigns, purchase in the slave market, or the enslavement of debtors.

Article

Muhammad ‘Ali of Egypt and Sudan  

George Michael La Rue

Muhammad ‘Ali ruled Egypt from 1805 to 1848. Long perceived as a reforming modernizer and founder of modern Egypt, historians have more recently reconsidered the impact of his economic and social policies on Egypt’s ordinary people. To determine his place in African history (and in the history of slavery and abolition) requires a broad reexamination of his policies and Egypt’s actions, and their consequences in Egypt, Sudan, within the Ottoman Empire, and in the 19th-century balance of power. After arriving in Egypt in 1801, Muhammad ‘Ali emerged from a complex political field as the Ottoman Pasha of Egypt by 1805. He overpowered the remnants of the old Mamluk regime, pushed them to Egypt’s southern boundaries, allied with key Egyptian elites, helped to suppress the Wahhabi revolt in the Hijaz for his Ottoman overlord, and strove to reduce the power of his Albanian troops. He reestablished trade (including the slave trade) with Sudan, and planned a new army of enslaved Sudanese. Between 1820 and 1835, Muhammad ‘Ali made a series of bold moves. The invasion of Sudan (1820–1821) and its occupation caused great political, social, and economic devastation there. Egypt toppled or threatened many Sudanese rulers, redirected Sudanese-Egyptian trade, and reshaped Sudan’s urban centers. The invaders attacked Sudanese and other African populations, conducted ongoing slave raids, enslaved thousands, and destroyed their homes. Egyptians and Sudanese found challenges and opportunities within these broader patterns. Enslaved Sudanese became soldiers in the nizam al-jadid, laborers in Muhammad ‘Ali’s new industries, diplomatic gifts, and taxable trade commodities. Newly formed elites bought African slaves for domestic tasks in Sudan and Egypt. Egypt’s new medical establishment treated Sudanese slave soldiers for guinea-worm, vaccinated incoming slaves for smallpox, and purchased Sudanese and Ethiopian women to train as hakimas—fully trained nurse-midwives. Initially, Muhammad ‘Ali sent his new army to fight in Greece on behalf of the Ottoman Empire. Later, his challenges to Ottoman supremacy drew the attention of European powers, who feared any disruption to the delicate balance of power. The demographic impact of the bubonic plague epidemic of 1834–1835 on Egypt’s black slave population was notable, and led to increased demand for replacement slaves. This drew attention from European observers and added an abolitionist dimension to diplomatic pressure on Muhammad ‘Ali. By 1841, he gained Ottoman recognition as hereditary ruler of Egypt and parts of Sudan, his army’s size was capped, and he made trade concessions to Europe. With his imperial ambitions now limited to Africa, Muhammad ‘Ali renewed his interest in controlling more of Sudan and adjacent regions, and deflected abolitionist criticism by blaming supplying regions for continuing to raid and trade in slaves.