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Interactive Slave Operations: Muslim-Christian Jewish Contracts in Thirteenth-Century Barcelona

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Medieval Mediterranean Spain saw routine interaction between all three ethnoreligious populations, most of it random and undocumented. Slave purchases constituted one such tri-ethnic situation, as exemplified in the four charters transcribed and contextualized here, from the cathedral archives of Barcelona in 1252, 1275, 1286, and 1290. Each operation moved a slave from one public and private cultural ambience to another; each involved women; each was a local, short-term transaction; and each illustrates the generalities available in our slave data base. Family, social class, economic framework, and legal context can be clarified for each transaction in turn. As corsairs scoured the seas, especially for women slaves to service the century's new patrician life-style, a Muslim slave community populated perhaps 21 percent of Barcelona households, part of a mass population interchange between Islam and Christendom, facilitated by Jewish entrepreneurs whose Hebrew signatures are on each of these early and therefore rare slave parchments.

Affiliations: 1: UCLA


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