11/8/06 - european

In today's excerpt - European, Asian and African slaves in the 8th and 9th century C.E.:

"By 740 C.E., the spectacular Muslim conquests had created a vast intercontinental empire extending from modern Pakistan westward across the entire Mideast and northern Africa to Spain and even southern France. This territorial conquest produced an immense flow of slaves from many ethnic groups for employment as servants, soldiers, members of harems, eunuchs chaperons, and workers in the fields and mines. Since Islamic law prohibited the forcible enslavement of Muslims, the Arabs, Berbers and their Muslim converts who made deep inroads into sub-Saharan Africa had strong incentives to acquire by purchase or capture large numbers of 'infidel' black slaves.

"Muslims, or 'Moors' as they were called, also enslaved enormous numbers of Europeans, but with the exception of the southeastern Byzantine region, Europeans were less accessible than East Africans. Between 1550 and the early 1800s the Moors of North Africa seized and enslaved well over one million Europeans—by raiding the coastlines from Italy to England and even Iceland as well as by capturing countless ships. But many of these white slaves were ransomed, thanks to the strength and negotiating power of European states and the concerted efforts of Christian benevolent societies. White captives tended to be given less onerous and degrading jobs than the blacks.

"The importation of huge numbers of black slaves into Islamic lands, from Spain to India, was the result of a continuous, large-scale migration—by caravan and sea over a period of more than twelve centuries, beginning in the 600s. It may have equaled, in total number, all the African slaves transported to the New World. Between 869 and 883, thousands of black slaves in what is now southern Iraq staged one of the greatest slave revolts in human history. Because the status of slavery came to be associated with the increasing number of sub-Saharan Africans, the Arabic word for slave 'abd came to mean only a black slave, and in some regions referred to any black, whether slave or free. Numerous Arab and Iranian depictions of black slaves were almost identical with the worst racist stereotypes in nineteenth-century America."


David Brion Davis


Blacks: Damned By the Bible


The New York Review of Books


November 16, 2006


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