Call for papers: SLAVERY IN THE BLACK SEA REGION, C. 1000-1900

It is with great pleasure that we invite historians of slavery and of the Black Sea region to participate in the upcoming workshop entitled “Slavery in the Black Sea Region, c. 1000-1900: Forms of Unfreedom at the Intersection between Orthodox Christianity and Islam” to be hosted on 30-31 May 2017 by Leiden University in the Netherlands. 

Leiden has attracted a number of enthusiastic scholars who are producing top research on the history of slavery. They have recently established the Leiden Slavery Studies Association and hosted a major international conference on global slavery, which took place in June 2015. Their work has appeared in monographs with Cambridge UP, Brill, and other academic presses as well as in journals such as Slavery and AbolitionPast & Present, and Journal of Medieval History. They have recently launched the Journal of Global Slavery and a new book series entitled “Studies in Global Slavery,” published by Brill. The proceedings of this workshop will be published in the latter series under the care of Felicia Roșu.


I.  Workshop Theme

The history of slavery has received heightened attention in the past few years. There is a growing interest in less widely known forms of bondage and captivity that were (and in some cases still are) practiced outside the trans-Atlantic world; consequently, studies of areas such as the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea have already started to enrich the conversation on global slavery. So far, the Black Sea has been virtually absent from this discussion, even though the region constituted one of the main slaving hubs on the frontier between Europe and the rest of the world in the ancient and medieval period, and between Islam and Christianity in early modern times. Scholars of Eastern Europe, the Black Sea, and the Ottoman world can bring fresh perspectives to the wider debate on global slavery, considering that the region was home to peculiar types of enslavement that resulted in a bewildering diversity of captives (Russian serfs, Gypsy slaves, Muslim and Christian captives taken across the religious frontier) and captors (Tatars and Cossacks, renegade raiders, Italian traders). The position of the Orthodox Christian churches regarding slavery was particularly interesting: the principle used elsewhere in the early modern period, according to which co-religionists could not be enslaved, was not a major factor in the Romanian territories, where the Church owned slaves well into the nineteenth century. The Muslim societies around the Black Sea, in turn, had their own peculiar forms of human bondage, which have been insufficiently integrated into the broader discussion on slavery as a global phenomenon. Our workshop aims to place the Black Sea in this wider debate, while raising new conceptual questions that will partly illuminate, partly complicate, and possibly modify current theories on early modern forms of unfreedom. A starting point for discussion will be J. Fynn-Paul’s concept of “slaving zones” as well as Ehud Toledano’s “continuum model” that proposes to look at slavery in terms of “various degrees of bondage rather than a dichotomy of slave and free.” (1)


II. Sub-themes

Participants are invited to use their research as a case study, or they might choose to write a more theoretical paper reflecting on slavery in the Black Sea region as an encounter zone between East and West, Christianity and Islam. Contributions will be clustered under three main perspectives—Medieval and Early Modern Intersections, Orthodox Christianity and Islam, and Exit Strategies—but participants are encouraged to be critical with this structure or to approach it creatively. Sub-themes include (but are not limited to) the following topics:

 Slavery in Byzantium

 Italian merchants and the connection with the Mediterranean in the late medieval period

 Tatars, Cossacks, and other raiders, and their role in the Black Sea slave trade

 Slavery under Orthodox Christianity: the role of local churches in the perpetuation of slavery

 Slavery in Islam; Ottoman slavery and the Ottoman slave trade

 Slavery and other forms of unfree labor in Russia

 Gypsy slavery on Romanian territories

 Exiting slavery: abolition, gradual disuse, or falling off the radar?

 The big picture: patterns of unfreedom in the region; the place of the Black Sea in global slavery


III. Panel organization

Panels will be formed around topics proposed by the participants. Each panel will have a theme and several guiding questions that the participants will be invited to discuss. The themes and questions will be communicated in advance so that participants may prepare their contributions accordingly. The workshop will be focused on discussions, rather than conference-style presentations.

Since this is an exploratory workshop geared toward the publication of a volume, participants will be asked to submit full papers one month in advance.


III. Deadlines

Interested participants are asked to submit abstracts of 300-500 words to Felicia Roșu at . The deadline for submissions is 15 November 2016.

Authors will be notified about their proposal’s status and the panel themes by the end of December 2016.

Full paper submission deadline: 30 April 2017


IV. LSSA Conference

The end of our workshop is scheduled to coincide with the beginning of the Leiden Slavery Studies Association biennial international conference, "Slavery and Forced Labor in Asia, c. 1250-1900: Continuities and Transformations in Comparative Perspective." You are welcome to stay on for the conference, which you may attend without having to pay the attendance fee. Should you like to present a paper there as well, please contact the organizers at .

We look forward to hearing from you!

 Felicia Roșu, Tunç Sen, and Jeff Fynn-Paul – Leiden University

Also on behalf of the Leiden Slavery Studies Association

(1) Jeffrey Fynn-Paul, “Empire, Monotheism and Slavery in the Greater Mediterranean Region from Antiquity to the Early Modern Era,” Past and Present 205, no. 1 (2009): 3–40; Ehud R. Toledano, “The Concept of Slavery in Ottoman and Other Muslim Societies: Dichotomy or Continuum,” in Slave Elites in the Middle East and Africa: A Comparative Study , ed. Miura Toru and John Edward Philips (London and New York: Kegan Paul International, 2000), 159–76.

Last Modified: 31-10-2016