Uncovering the Medieval Slave Trade — A Conversation with Hannah Barker (Episode #147)

Before Columbus had even set foot in America, medieval Europe and the Islamic Middle East already had a long history in trading and exploiting slaves. An important branch of the slave trade involved buying captives from the shores of the Black Sea and trafficking them through the Mediterranean to the commercial cities of Italy or to Egypt, where many of them became slave soldiers or even rulers (called “Mamluks”). We discuss the history of the trade, who these thousands of slaves were and what became of them with Hannah Barker of Arizona State University, author of “That Most Precious Merchandise: The Mediterranean Trade in Black Sea Slaves, 1260-1500.” Image: Pillar capital with sculpted faces of foreign peoples, including Turk and Tatar, Doge’s Palace, Venice.

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