Transregional Slave Networks of the Northern Arc, 700–900 C.E.
This dissertation charts the movement of slaves from Western Europe, through Scandinavia, and into the frontiers of the Caliphate, a movement which took shape in the early 700s and flourished into the late 800s. The victims of this movement are well attested in texts from either end of their journey, and the movement of everyday things allows us to trace the itineraries they followed. Necklace beads—produced in the east, carried to the north, and worn in the west—serve as proxies for human traffic that traveled the same routes in opposite directions. Attention to this traffic overcomes four impasses—between regional particularism and interregional connectivity; between attention to exchange and focus on production; between privileging textual or material evidence; and between definitions of slavery that obscure practices of enslavement. The introduction outlines problems of studying medieval slavery with regard to transregional approaches to the Middle Ages, the transition to serfdom, and the use of material evidence. Chapter One gathers narrative texts previously dealt with anecdotally to establish patterns for the Viking-Age slave trade, with eastward traffic thriving by the late 800s. Chapter Two confirms these patterns by graphically comparing viking violence to reports of captive taking in the annals and archival documents of Ireland, Francia, and Anglo-Saxon England. Chapter Three investigates how viking captive taking impacted Western societies and the creation of written records in Carolingian Europe. Chapter Four turns to the material record, using beads to trace the intensity and flow of human traffic that fed from early viking violence. Chapter Five establishes a corresponding demand for slaves in the ʿAbbāsid Caliphate through Arabic archival, legal, historical, and geographic texts. The conclusion places this research in the context of global history. By spanning periods, regions, and disciplines, this dissertation brings to focus people who crossed boundaries unwillingly, but whose movements contributed to epochal change.