Hannah Barker

  • Fellowship Dates 2011-2011
  • Research Topic Egyptian and Italian Merchants in the Black Sea Slave Trade, 1260-1453
  • Fellow or Grant Type Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
  • Affiliation Pre-doctoral candidate Columbia University

This research examines the network of merchants who exported slaves from the Black Sea region to markets in Egypt and Italy during the later Middle Ages. It connects, rather than compares, the Egyptian and Italian branches of this trade and investigates the extent to which the Italian and Egyptian slave trades were two aspects of a single system rather than two distinct systems. The study is limited to the period from 1260-1453 CE by the politics of the Black Sea. In 1260, the Byzantine emperor allowed Genoa to found colonies in the Black Sea that later became centers of the slave trade. In 1453, the Ottomans conquered Constantinople and prevented Italian merchants from reaching the Black Sea, permitting Ottoman merchants to take over the Egyptian slave trade and forcing the Italian merchants to look elsewhere for slaves.

This research provides a more complete and sophisticated view of medieval slavery as it influenced the development of slavery in the New World. It offers a new perspective on Christian-Muslim relations of the period by examining the religious and legal controversies surrounding medieval slavery – a means of enforcing religious conversion for both faiths. The research additionally studies how closely linked Italian and Egyptian slavery were to determine if they were inseparable, as the medieval Italians suspected, or distinct as modern historians believe. The study builds a database of medieval slave traders in order to identify individual slave traders, gather information about them in a searchable format and map their personal and commercial relationships, particularly those relationships that cross cultural, religious and political boundaries.

TopicsHistory, ReligionThemePeople & SocietyHistoric PeriodIslamic, MedievalLocationEurope, Lower Egypt


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