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Encyclopedia > Slave trade in the Middle Ages
Costumes of slaves or serfs, from the sixth to the twelfth centuries, collected by H. de Vielcastel, from original documents in the great libraries of Europe.

Between the 6th and 10th centuries AD, the primary source of slaves for Europe and the Middle East were the territories of central and eastern Europe, especially Slavonic people. This is why the word for slave in many European languages is derived from the word for Slavs (in English, German and French, for example). Another important source for the Middle East was West Africa, via the trans-Saharan trade routes.

After the conquest of North Africa and Spain by Muslims, the Islamic world became a huge importer of slaves from central Europe. The trade routes were established between slave trade centres in the Slavonic countries (for example Prague and Wolin) and Arab metropoles in Spain. Because of religious constraints, the slave trade was monopolised by Jews who were able to transfer the slaves from Pagan central Europe through Christian western Europe to Muslim countries in Spain and Africa. The majority of slaves were prisoners captured in wars between Slavonic tribes and states.

This trade came to the end in 10th century after the Christianisation of the central European Slavic countries.

Serfdom replaced the institutition of slavery. While serfdom had numerous disadvantages, it was in no way equivalent with slavery. For example, serfs had numerous rights that slaves did not have: they could marry, have a family, pass on a family inheritance, and cultivate the land.

Further reading: Those Terrible Middle Ages, by Regine Pernoud.

Saint Adalbert was one person that wanted to put an end to the slave trade.

  Results from FactBites:
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Medieval France France in the Middle Ages is, for the purpose of this article, the history of the region roughly corresponding to modern day France from the death of Charlemagne in 814 to the middle of the 15th century.
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Middle Ages - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2785 words)
The Middle Ages formed the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history into three "ages": the classical civilization of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times.
The Middle Ages of Western Europe are commonly dated from the end of the Western Roman Empire (5th century) until the rise of national monarchies, the start of European overseas exploration, the humanist revival, and the Protestant Reformation starting in 1517.
The term "Dark Ages" has now fallen from favour, partly to avoid the entrenched stereotypes associated with the phrase, but also partly because more recent research into the period has in fact revealed its surprising artistic sophistication, though its political and social senses were unevolved and its technologies undeveloped, compared to the preceding culture.
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