View Full Version : 12th Century slaves from Eastern Europe

09-23-2008, 08:18 AM
Looking for info on the day to day life of 12th Century slaves around Eastern Europe i.e. The Ukraine or the Slovak region.

09-23-2008, 09:04 AM
Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry by Bernard Lewis


09-23-2008, 10:51 PM
Study what life was like for the normal people - meaning the serfs - and you will pretty much have it spot on. There weren't a lot of extras, luxuries, or freedom for anyone. Not really much to take away. Sort of like communist Russia.

09-24-2008, 03:12 AM
I found some interesting links. It was kind of similar, except for the having no freedom part which I found was a huge struggle with slaves always trying to escape such a big landscape.

09-24-2008, 03:28 AM
I am not sure if this applies to the area you are asking about, but in the 1300s the surf system fell apart in parts of western Europe after the Great Plague. Sometimes the lord of the manor and his family died, which basically freed the surfs. Sometimes so many surfs died that lords of the manor began to hire away surfs from other places. In some places, the former surfs could demand high wages because they were in demand.

09-24-2008, 03:29 AM
That's an interesting fact, though I do know Eastern Europe has always been behind Western Europe in developing economically and politically.

09-24-2008, 05:41 PM
In some places, the former surfs could demand high wages because they were in demand.

I haven't researched this lately but weren't the serfs (spelled serf, not like the kind at the beach) basically attached to the land? It is my understanding, again from past studies, that the serfs worked the land and gave a portion to the Lord of the castle in exchange for protection from invaders. This was a core tenant of feudalism.

When you write this remember to take off your modern glasses and forget anything and everything you know about the concept of human rights, a concept that was first codified (not invented) with the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. The very concepts of rebellion and freedom (as we understand it) is something that would never occur to most serfs. And even slaves in many cases (but not all) would accept their circumstances and plod along as best they could. It is so easy to take our wonderful world for granted and forget that 1000 years ago the Lord and the serf were far closer in what was available to them than Bill Gates and a drunk in the gutter are today.

Fascinating period of history. Have fun!

09-25-2008, 02:50 AM
Yeah, it's difficult to remove a lot of assumptions about how society works based on the workings of our own society.

Though rebellions did occur. There's heaps of accounts of peasant revolts and slave rebellions. I don't think they were the norm, but certainly frequent enough to keep Lords and Masters on a wary watch for 'trouble makers.'

Deb Kinnard
09-25-2008, 05:59 AM
I only know England, but the 14th century is a specialty of mine.

Serfs were attached to the land--this is true. If the lord sold or gave away the land via bequest or inheritance, the people working the land went with it. This was how it was supposed to work.

The Pestilence in 1348-50 changed many things. Farm laborers were so scarce due to the die-off (in some areas in England, they lost 40-60%, not the 35% quoted for much of continental Europe), they could ask for whatever wages they wanted, and usually get them. The landlords, desperate to take in their crops, usually paid. If the lord didn't, the serf knew he could take his family and stroll a few miles down the road to the next manor, where he'd probably be welcomed. Many small holdings also fell vacant due to the extreme attrition, and a serf who'd left his own lord might be invited to occupy one of these.

Feudal "customary" duties also became less onerous and less pervasive after the Pestilence. These irritating "extra" works that went with one's tie to the land were often commuted to a money payment after the Pestilence. Or, the land was simply let out at a rent of so many pence per acre. English peasants found customary duties very irksome, and so these chores were some of the first things to go, once they found themselves at an economic advantage vis-a-vis the landowning class.

09-25-2008, 06:04 AM
See, I know Russia was quite different to the rest of Europe. There's lots on the rest of Europe and scarce details on Russia.

09-25-2008, 06:53 AM
My exact dates are hazy (it's been years since I took Russian history), but I believe during the 13th century Russia was under the Mongol-Tatar yoke. I can't recall when serfdom was instituted in Russia, but I have a feeling it wasn't as early as that. So you may not find slaves there per se, unless the Mongols took some. If you've got a university nearby, you may find some good books on Russian history in the library, especially if the university has a Slavic department.

That's an interesting fact, though I do know Eastern Europe has always been behind Western Europe in developing economically and politically.
This is not true. Check out Yaroslav the Wise and his laws. Also keep in mind Russia had close ties with Byzantium, imported Greek bishops, excelled in art and architecture, and considered Moscow to be the third Rome. There's also the case of Novgorod, which was part of the Hanseatic League and was governed by an assembly known as the veche, which elected a prince and regularly booted out princes they didn't like. Early democracy.

09-25-2008, 07:38 AM
This is not true

Sorry, my error. I should know this from my own research reading about some Slavic document being one of the first law codes. It wasn't until later that Russia fell behind up until the Russian Revolution.

I do know there were slaves in that time. It's just a hassle finding specific information. The slaves were taken from each other usually as prizes of war between the territories, and weren't much more than status symbols.

09-25-2008, 08:27 AM
If you research religion of 12th Century Russia, I believe you will find a number of interesting facts. If I remember correctly, if a free man marries a slave, the free man remains free. If a free woman marries a slave, the free woman becomes a slave as well.
The laws of the land dictated a slave was not responsible for a crime, the slave's master was responsible. Slaves were used to do the common labour. The treatment of the slaves was solely in the hands of their master, and in many cases the treatment was quite respectable. Women slaves were used as concubines, and were frequently sold as prostitutes to increase the household income. In times of strife, the slaves were conscripted into slave armies. A slave once freed had no social status, which did not bode well for a long life span. I hope this helps. I read it in a non fiction book a few months back when reading a bit more on Bernard Lewis and his crusade against slavery in the middle east. I believe i found it online...I'll try a google and edit the post if I find a link.

Correction: I got it wrong, the man becomes a slave when marrying a slave without the master's consent. ... I believe the free woman when marrying a slave did not become a slave, since female slaves were freely sold for prostitution......not the site I was referring to but ... http://www.jstor.org/pss/3020189

The Ruskaia Pravda of the mid 12 century (Laws of Slovakia) in a simplified form are here....

Sorry, I can't find it online, it may have been in book format....