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Fugitives and Factotums: Slaves in Early Sixteenth-Century Istanbul

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image of Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

As one of the most immediate sources for the study of community life, the shariah court records of Istanbul capture one of the underlying characteristics of Ottoman society at the beginning of the sixteenth century, that of social and spatial mobility. This characteristic is clearly illustrated in the case of slaves. Records concerning fugitive slaves and slaves who resided in the region, either as freedmen or in servitude, clearly indicate that slavery helped fuel the economy of empire and, upon manumission, slaves were readily absorbed into local communities. The institution of slavery was an integral part of both Ottoman society and local community life and was used not only by the palace but by a wide variety of residents, across a range of socio-economic levels.

Affiliations: 1: Washington, D.C.


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