Dr Alice Rio
Semester 1 (autumn)
10 x 2-hour weekly seminars
1 x 4,000 word essay
This module will consider the history of slavery and unfreedom from the late Roman empire down to the Renaissance. The middle ages saw the disappearance of European slavery in the Roman mould, in which a restricted number of persons were under the complete legal and material control of their master, and its replacement with serfdom, a lighter form of subjection, but one which involved the majority of the rural population. Alongside these local developments, the slave trade, both in Northern Europe and in the Mediterranean, remained buoyant, and apparently subjected to fundamentally different rhythms of evolution. This course will be unique in offering students the opportunity to study this important topic throughout the medieval period, from late antiquity and the fall of the Roman empire through to the late medieval slave trade, in Western Europe as well as in Byzantine and Islamic regions.
The module will consider a variety of themes, such as enslavement, captivity and conquest; ways in and ways out of slavery; the slave trade; gender and sexual exploitation; the ability or inability of slaves to form families; slaves as the ‘other’; the scope for social mobility as well as exclusion; and the concept of social crisis, often linked with the subjection of the free by both contemporary writers and modern historians. The course will also consider slavery in the context of wider social change, since it cannot be assumed that the free-unfree divide, much insisted on by Roman masters and medieval lords after them, would always have been the most crucial form of social differentiation (the free poor, among others, constitute an important point of comparison). The available sources vary widely according to time and place: they include the writings of philosophers and moralists, letters, inscriptions, agricultural handbooks, laws, Christian polemic, saints’ lives, poetry, penitentials, archive documents and estate-surveys.http://www.kcl.ac.uk/artshums/depts/chs/modules/level7/7AAH1012.aspx