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Slavery And Historiography

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Chapter Summary

Modern preconceptions and sensibilities have profoundly affected historical interpretations of the medieval institution of slavery. Abolitionism has been widely regarded by historians as a defining watershed in British civilisation. This chapter attempts to improve the understanding of the significance of slavery in medieval Britain by first seeking to understand how modern attitudes and sensibilities have distorted our view of that institution. Modern ideological perspectives and economic rationales have immeasurably distorted our view of medieval slavery. The psychological impact of New World slavery is clearly discernable in the historical discourse on the institution in the medieval period. Medieval historiography has inherited a powerful legacy from the abolitionist era that closely associates the societies of Britain with Christian civilisation and anti-slavery sentiments. Historians must be extremely self-reflexive if they are to transcend the, still powerful nineteenth-century abolitionist ideology.

Keywords: Christian civilisation; medieval Britain; medieval historiography; medieval slavery



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