Inequality, History and the Caucasian Slave Trade, 1395-1792

01 October 2019 → 30 September 2021
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Medieval history
    • World history
Slavery Caucasus global labour history ideology social power relations Mamluks Safavids Renaissance Italy
Project description

Throughout the medieval and early modern periods, a vast network of forced migration was operating in Eurasia, which at times equalled the African slave trade in size. A particularly important part of this system was the Caucasian slave trade, in which young men and women from the Caucasus Mountains were sold in the Italian Republics, Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and Iran. The effects of this trade were far-reaching: for example, the use of the racial term ‘Caucasian’ as a synonym for ‘white’ ultimately derives from the European exoticisation of Caucasian slaves in the Ottoman Empire. Yet this trade and the social systems that underpinned it have never been comprehensively studied. My research will allow the voices of Caucasian slaves to be heard, and will provide a comparative study of a non-western, stateless region which can increase our understanding of how exploitative systems of power operate. My project, 'Inequality, History and the Caucasian Slave Trade, 1395 -1792', will explore how this almost-forgotten slave trade operated. Who were these slaves, and how was this system of exploitation justified? I will examine written narratives from Dagestan, the evidence of Russian, Ottoman and Western European travellers, Caucasian folklore and unstudied narratives in Genoese and Venetian archives to answer these questions. This research will produce at least two articles during the course of the fellowship, preparatory to a future monograph.