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date: 07 October 2022

Enslaved Africans in Medieval and Early Modern Iberialocked

Enslaved Africans in Medieval and Early Modern Iberialocked

  • Ivan Armenteros-MartinezIvan Armenteros-MartinezInstitucion Mila y Fontanals de Investigacion en Humanidades, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC


In the Middle Ages and the early modern period, slavery was a widespread institution in the Christian-western Mediterranean. Its development was closely related to the systemic changes that took place in the region: the arrival of Islam in the 8th century, the Latin expansion of the 12th and 13th centuries, and the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade (c. 1450).

After the arrival of Islam on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, and then the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century, a type of slavery concentrated mainly in the cities began to take shape in western Europe. During the Latin economic and commercial expansion of the 12th and 13th centuries, European merchants expanded their networks to the Black Sea, the Balkans, and the coast of Libya around Barqa, an area that concentrated part of the trans-Saharan slave trade routes. These three regions became the main centers for the exportation of enslaved men and women for the Christian-western Mediterranean. Finally, after the Ottoman expansion in the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea (c. 1370–1480), and the onset of the Atlantic slave trade (c. 1450–1480), Black African slaves became more numerous than those from anywhere else.

Medieval Mediterranean societies made intensive and extensive use of slave labor. The slaves’ living conditions were related to the type of jobs they were forced to do, whether exploited directly by their owners or hired by others.

After the exponential increase of sub-Saharan slaves, the first Black brotherhoods in the northern Mediterranean appeared, a testimony to the importance that Black slavery had attained by the end of the 15th century.


  • Slavery and Slave Trade

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