Matthew Gordon (Miami University, Ohio/ American University of Beirut)
Thursday, 22. June 2017, 20:00-22:00
Michael McCormick argues for the “voracious” appetite of early Abbasid urban society for (European) slaves and slave labor. The Abbasid market, in sum, constituted a significant facet of early medieval Mediterranean slave history. His discussion turns on the impact of that traffic on the early medieval European economy. This paper turns the lens from Europe to the Abbasid city. It takes up one poorly considered element of this history: the infrastructure in which the interaction of slavers, clients/slave owners, and slaves/freed persons played out.
The paper will consider the (very) fragmentary evidence regarding physical slave markets and other material evidence (cited or actual), including the fairly extensive surviving corpus of papyri documents, most of which originate from Egypt. The paper will also pay attention to the slave merchants of the Abbasid period and less the reputation of the slave merchants than weigh their activity; the membership of the slave merchant ‘class’, their networks of connections with other sectors of the Abbasid-era economic, and the social and political sphere. The paper underscores the fragmentary yet highly suggestive character of the evidence, and thus aims to complement McCormick’s invaluable discussion.
Matthew S. Gordon is a professor of Middle East and Islamic history at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio). His publications include The Breaking of a Thousand Swords: A History of the Turkish Military of Samarra (2000) and The Rise of Islam (2005), and a series of articles on gender and slavery in early Islamic society. He is co-editor of the Ya῾qubi Translation Project and, with Antoine Borrut, an editor of the online journal al-῾Uṣūr al-Wusṭā.
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