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Slave Trade in the Early Modern Crimea From the Perspective of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources

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The Crimea, a peninsula on the border between the Christian West and the Muslim East, was a place where merchants from all over the Black Sea region, East and West Mediterranean, Anatolia, Turkey, Russia, and West European countries came to buy, sell, and exchange their goods. In this trade "live merchandise"—reluctant travellers, seized by the Tatars during their raids to adjacent countries—was one of the main objects to be negotiated. Numerous published and archival sources (accounts of European and Ottoman travellers, letters and memoirs of captives, Turkish defters [registers], Russian and Ottoman chronicles to mention some of them) composed by Muslim, Christian, and Jewish authors provide not only a detailed account of the slave trade in the region in the Early Modern times, but also a discussion of some moral implications related to this sort of commercial activity. While most of the authors expressed their disapproval of the Tatar predatory raids and cruel treatment of the captives, none of them, it seems, objected to the existence of the slave trade per se, considering it just another off shoot of the international trade. Another issue often discussed in the sources was the problem of the slaves' conversion.

Affiliations: 1: Oxford University


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