This is the first post about the slave trade of white people, where I looked at some of the earliest written records of such slavery. It was discovering records about the slavery of my own, Slavic spoken people, which really stunned me since I have never read or learned about it. It as well forces me to realize the possibility that many of my ancestors may have perished as slaves. But just how did that happen? In my mind, the Slavic people are too proud and of a most upright posture, impossible to be fully tamed if shackled. Yet the records I was able to read have proven me wrong in the perception of my own kind of people. It was something I really did not expect to discover while researching about the slave trade of white people of medieval Europe. And it still echoes as an extremely hard fact for my brains to properly absorb.
The slave trade of white people is a less known dimension of the slave trade in general due to a common notion, that only Africans were sold as slaves and were bought or sold only by Europeans. This is of course a historical nonsense since the Africans were first enslaved by other Africans before they were sold to European traders and secondly, the enslavement of Africans by Africans would occur regardless of the European slave traders.
Apparently, there had long been an internal African slave market flourishing already for ages before any European set their foot on the continent.
As we can learn from Akosua Perbi, a researcher of pre-colonial slavery in Africa:
“Bono Manso and Begho in modern Brong Ahafo region became important centers for this trade from 1000 to 1750 A.D. The Mande Dyula were the professional merchants in this trade. The West African forest region supplied gold, kola nuts, ivory and slaves in this trade. Ghana though in the forest region was known to have supplied gold, kola nuts and ivory. The West African savanna region provided millet, sorghum, wheat, livestock, gum, shea butter, ivory, ostrich feathers, cloth, gold and slaves. The Sahara contributed salt, copper, tobacco and dates. From Europe and the Muslim world came textiles and garments made from wool, silk, brocade, velvet or satin; calicoes, metals such as brass, copper, silver, tin and lead. Other goods from the Mediterranean world were books, writing paper, cowries, tea, coffee, sugar, spices, jewellry, perfumes, bracelets, mirrors, carpets, beads etc. Ghana obtained slaves through this trade from the 1st to the 16th centuries A.D. .
All the West African states along the Atlantic coast were linked by a southern trade route covering modern Senegal to modern Nigeria. Ghana, again because of its wealth in gold, exchanged gold for slaves, beads, cotton, cloth and palm oil from the Benin state in modern Nigeria. From Dahomey and Ivory Coast, Ghana exchanged gold for the famous quaqua cloth. Shama on the Ghana coast was the entrepot of trade.”
There is another source, a first-hand witness who claims to have seen the presence of intertribal slave trade within Africa of the 19th century:
“During my residence in Central Africa I was repeatedly traveling about in the villages along the Congo River and its almost unknown affluents, and in every new village I was confronted by fresh evidences of the horrible nature of this evil. I did not seek to witness the sufferings attendant upon this traffic in humanity, but cruelties of all kinds are so general that the mere passing visits which I paid brought me in constant contact with them.
It is not alone by the Arabs that slave-raiding is carried on throughout Central Africa. With respect to slavery in the Congo Free State, the western limit of the slave-raiding operations of the Arabs is the Aruwhimi River, just below Stanley Falls, but intertribal slavery exists from this point throughout the State to the Atlantic Ocean. During my six years’ residence on the Congo River I saw but little of the Arabs, and therefore in this article I am detailing only my experiences bearing upon the subject of slavery among the natives themselves.” 
The international slave trade of white people is however potentially older than its African counterpart and we can see references to it as early as the ancient Greeks (such as for instance with Homer’s mention of Phoenician slavers operating around the Aegean in the search for more Europeans to be sold at the slave markets of the Middle East).
We can learn quite a lot about the international slave trade of this early historical period thanks largely to the fact that it was a highly profitable business. It also involved posession of a large amount of capital to purchase the slaves and as such, expressed in modern economic terms, had high barriers to market entry. This means that international trade in slaves left a long documentary trail, some of which has survived to bear witness to this dark chapter in human history.
The main target for slave hunters and owners historically have always been places, where there are large numbers of people, but little centralised government. This is so because the business of slavery is an emotional and delicate one in so far, as if you enslave the wrong person, it is quite plausible to suggest that you will end up getting your throat cut at some point. And in addition to that you need to be able to negotiate with smaller governmental units, such as the heads of tribes and clans, who tend to fight each other and take prisoners (i.e. have a ready supply of potential slaves).
Those prisoners can then be bought as slaves if you can persuade the local authorities – something that is a lot easier and less costly if you also happen to have something that the locals want to trade in exchange. Hence why Roman slavers operating in Gaul before Caesar’s invasion brought large amounts of wine, which they then sold at very high prices to the Gaulish chieftains and nobility, who paid the merchants in kind with large amounts of slaves, that were then transported back to the Roman Empire and sold at another large mark-up. I will address the issue of alcholol distilleries and their ownership later.
This slave trade was carried on after the fall of Rome in the West by Jews and it has long been established in medievalist circles that this was indeed the case. We have two Arab sources from the 9th and 10th century respectively, who directly tell us that the Jews both ruled the slave trade as well as what slaves they were bringing to the lands of Islam.
Here is what Ibn-Khordadhbeh can tell us about the Radhanite merchants and Ibrahim ibn Ya’kub on Prague, where merchants met:
»What comes from the Western sea is the khadam Saqalib and Rumi and Frankish and Lombard boy-slaves, and Rumi and Andalusian slave-girls.«
»The Rus and the Slavs come from the city of Krakow to Prague with merchandise, which originates in the lands of the Mohammedan Turks, and has been sold to them by Jews and Turks for coins and commodities of slaves, tin and various different furs.«
A second group of sources starts with the church council of Meaux (845), repeating resolutions of Merovingian synods that forbade Jews and others to buy and sell Christian slaves. The secular counterfoil to the prohibition are some imperial privileges, three of the 9th and one the 11th century. They allow the Jewish people to buy, sell and retain pagan slaves while forbidding Christian ones. Yet other ecclesiastical sources of the period glorify their heroes for saving prisoners and slaves from Jewish captivity. In year 1009 the German emperor is reported to have rebuked an east-German noble for selling serfs to Jews.
That the Council of Meaux felt the need to specifically outlaw this and demand that those engaging in such trade be dealt with severely, tells that the Jews must have been a significant presence in the international slave trade of white people and indeed are very likely to have dominated, given the confirmation from other sources. I should also note that the Meaux decree comes before, not after our sources begin to mention this dominance clearly (in addition to previous decrees of a similar nature that preceded Meaux, indicating that in spite of the Meaux decree, the Jews still dominated the trade in enslaved Europeans to the Orient well into the 12th century).
The loophole in this ruling by the Council of Meaux was the specific religious angle of the decree. It only applied to Christians and Jews could still buy, transport and sell non-Christians to whomever they pleased (but had to release them immediately if they converted to Christianity, hence the preference for the Islamic slave market), which explains the Slavic focus in that the Slavs were, at this time, a largely pagan people and as such would been one of the targeted people that Jewish slave traders could utilize.
White slavery was still markedly present throughout the whole 14th and 15th centuries, and white slaves, in fact, represented one of the largest slave populations, although most of the sales contracts of the time specifically failed to mention this fact. It is widely known that the term ‘slave’ may derive from ‘Slav’, which refers to Europeans who spoke Slavic languages.
For instance, there is an excellent research conducted in Spain related to the medieval slaves from Eastern and Central Europe sold in Spain, which confirms that the slaves came from the Black Sea area and the Balkans. The author claims that Balkan slaves represented 4.9% of the total slave population registered in the documents examined in Valencia (1375-1425), where Bulgarians were the largest group and the remaining Balkan nations were largely less represented. Men and women were sold as slaves in Medieval and Modern Spain because of suffering hunger, for committing crimes, on behalf of their religious beliefs, due to war, through trade, and also by birth, because of being the children of slave mothers. The enslavement of people from Central and Eastern Europe remained in Spain until the 15th century, when it probably became less profitable, perhaps because of the plagues that ravaged Europe and the demographic conditions as seems to have happened in 1348 with the Black Death in Catalonia.
In the case of Spain, it is also clear that the emergence of new markets and the strengthening of traditional slave routes from the African continent also had its effect on the disappearance of white-men slavery. And it is important to note that the enslavement of Spanish Muslims, Mudéjares and Moriscos, was a timely slavery, while sub-Saharan and North African slavery were a constant in the history in Spain.
Learning about these above facts I found myself eager to learn more. So what was going on in Bulgaria and the rest of Balkans in 13th – 15th century? The story of the Bulgarian and Bosnian bogomils can explain why there was a constant flux of slaves from the Balkans.
This story about the people called “krstjani” (“christians”) has been as well oversimplified by those who see the period from the 13th to the 15th century as a glorious time in which the dualist church and state worked together and prospered. In fact, the krstjani efforts to replicate early Christianity and follow an apostolic path were often obstructed by clergy and politicians in Rome and Hungary, who mounted crusades against them, such as the crusades of 1235-39, when Bosnia was devastated and thousands were either burned at the stake or led away into captivity.
We know from historical documents that there were signs of Bogomil »heresy« in Bosnia’s neighborhood as early as the end of the 12th century. The Archdeacon Thomas, in his Historia Salonitana (»Chronicle of Split«) relates that a Church Synod in 1185 condemned all »heretics and their supporters« and banned their small monastic houses called »brotherhoods« (fraternitates).
There were peace and quiet in Bosnia till 1216, when the gentle Pope Honorius III, having ascended the papal throne, believing that these heretical Bogomils could be convinced of their heresies by argument, sent subdeacon Aconcius to Bosnia to work on their conversion. But the arguments of the subdeacon proved no more efficient than those of his predecessors: the heresy grew and continuously increased. Northward and northwestward, in the provinces of Croatia, Dalmatia, Istria, Carniola, and Slavonia, which had historically been strongly Roman-Catholic, the number of converts multiplied daily, while at home they were fast becoming the dominant power.
In this emergency the Archbishop of Colocz, in Hungary, stood forth as a defender of the Roman-Catholic faith. Armed with authority from the pope and the Hungarian king, he entered Bosnia in 1222 and used the sword with such good effect, that he had shortly possessed provinces of Bosnia, Ussora and Soy. The Ban Zibisclav, who seems to have possessed very little of the Slavonic pluck, notwithstanding his Slavonic origin, was compelled to abjure his errors and, falling humbly at the feet of the pope, Gregory IX., received from him an embrace – in return for which he dedicated himself, his lands and all the goods he possessed at that time to this service. This was in 1233.
The subjects of the Ban were not inclined to be included in this abject surrender. The violent persecution which had raged for 11 years (1222-1233) had not terrified them, though it had subjugated their Ban, and their answer to their persecutor was the erection of more places of worship and the setting apart of a greater number of djeds, or elders, both for home and missionary work.
Pope Gregory IX. was enraged at the boldness of these heretics. Provence had been overrun and purged of its heresies, the Waldenses had been driven into the fastnesses of Piedmont, and should he be thus flouted by these Serbian BogomiIs? It was not to be an option even for a moment. A new crusade was mounted, and Coloman, Ban of Sclavonia and brother of the King of Hungary, was to lead it. In 1238 he entered Bosnia with a large army in order to exterminate the heretics. The weak and treacherous Zibisclav permitted the havoc and devastation without protest or resistance. Coloman »purged« — so they called it — the whole kingdom, and extended his ravages through the principality of Chelm, which formed the south-western portion of the present Herzegovina. No troubadour has sung, no historian has recorded the barbarities and atrocities of this war of extermination: we only know that many thousands were enslaved. Pope Gregory IX, in 1240, congratulated Coloman on »wiping out the heresy and restoring the light of Catholic purity«, but before his death in 1241, he had discovered that his congratulations were premature.
The Tartar invasion of 1241, which weakened the power of Hungary, and in which the crusader Coloman and the coward Zibisclav both died while under fierce attack of the Khan Ugadai, relieved the Bogomils from persecution for a short period.
Bogomilism was eradicated in Bulgaria and Byzantium in the 13th century, but survived in Bosnia and Herzegovina until the Ottoman Empire gained control of the region in 1463. Both Catholics and Orthodox persecuted the Bogomils as heretics and the consequence of this fact resulted in imprisonment and enslaving of large numbers of them, which then further explains why there are records of my own people sold as slaves in a far away land, such as medieval Spain.
In the next post I will disclose my findings about the slave trade of white people as it was operational in Black Sea area and its later trans-Atlantic routes . To be more precise, we will take a closer look at the slave trade in the Crimean peninsula based around the slave-trading capital of Caffa and western coast of Africa.
 For now I have assumed Homer’s legacy as authentic, though there is a certain possibility this is not true. In any case, the case presented in this post will stand firmly even if I exclude this particular reference to Homer’s work. Until I am convinced otherwise, this reference will be included.
 Transl. by D. AYALON, On the Eunuchs in Islam, in: “Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam”, I, Jerusalem 1979, pp. 67-124, here p. 104-105: “What comes from the Western sea is the khadam Saqalib and Rumi and Frankish and Lombard boy-slaves, and Rumi and Andalusian slave-girls”.
 Transl. by G. Jacob, “Arabische Berichte von Gesandten an germanische Fürstenhöfe aus dem 9. und 10. Jahrhundert”, Berlin-Leipzig 1927, p. 12: “(Nach Prag) kommen aus der Stadt Krakau die Rus und die Slawen mit Waaren, und es kommen zu ihnen aus den Ländern der Türken Muhammedaner, Juden und Türken gleichfalls mit Waaren und gangbaren Münzen und führen von ihnen Sklaven, Zinn und verschiedene Felle aus”.
 H.G. von Mutius (ed.), “Rechtsentscheide rheinischer Rabbinen vor dem ersten Kreuzzug”,
Frankfurt/M. 1985, vol. II, pp. 45-46, 48
 S.D. Goitein, “A Mediterranean Society. The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza”, vol. I, Berkeley, 1967
 MGH, “Concilia aevi Karolini DCCCXLIII-DCCCLIX”, ed. W. Hartmann, 1984, p. 124.
 Habeant eciam licentiam mancipia peregrina emere et infra imperium nostrum vendere; Mancipia quoque eorum pagana nullus sub obtentu christiane religionis baptizans ab eorum servicio avertat … nec eis liceat christianum emere servum. For the full texts see A. Linder, “The Jews in the Legal Sources”, p. 333-338, 342-343, 354
 Tertia propter captivos et mancipia christianorum, quos mercator Iudaeus infelici auro emerat emptosque tot episcopus redimere not potuit (Johannis Canaparius, Vita s. Adalberti episcopi, cap. 12, MGH, Scriptores IV, eds. G.H. PERTZ et alia, 1841/1982, p. 586); Populus autem erat durae cervicis; servus libidinum factus, miscebatur cum cognatis et sine lege cum uxoribus multis. Mancipia christiana perfidis et Iudaeis vendebant; dies festos confusa religione observant (Brunonis Vita s. Adalberti episcopi, cap. 11, ibid., p. 600); for the scene on the bronze door of a cathedral see P. Cerny, “Das Leben des hl. Adalbert von Prag auf der Bronzetür von Gnesen”, in: P. J. HOFMANN (ed.), “Tausend Jahre Benediktiner in den Klöstern Brevnov, Braunau und Rohr”, St. Ottilien 1993, p. 157-216 (with 19 plates); Quae mulier in pauperes et captivos ante diem praecipue sui obitus opera pietatis exercebat, et multos christianos de servitute Iudeorum suis facultatibus redimebat (Gallus Anonymus, Chronicae Polonorum, liber II, cap. 1, MGH Scriptores IX, eds. G.H. PERTZ et alia, 1851/1983, p. 44). On the hagiographic topos of ransoming captives see: F. Graus, “Die Gewalt bei den Anfängen des Feudalismus und die “Gefangenenbefreiungen” der merowingischen Hagiographie”, in: “Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte” 1961, part 1, p. 61-156; R. Doehaerd, “The Early Middle Ages in the West, Economy and Society”, Amsterdam 1978, p. 27; D. Pelteret, “Slave raiding and slave trading in early England”, in: “Anglo-Saxon England” (1981), p. 99-114, here p. 103; W. Klingshirn, “Charity and power: Caesarius of Arles and the ransoming of captives in sub-Roman Gaul”, in: “Journal of Roman Studies” (1985), p. 183-203; H. Hoffmann, “Kirche und Sklaverei im frühen Mittelalter”, in: “Deutsches Archiv” (1986), p. 1-24, especially p. 15-16; R.M. Karras , “Slavery and Society in Medieval Scandinavia”, New Haven-London 1988, p. 203, note no. 36
 “Adiecit autem, quod familias multorum sepe id sibi querentium Iudeis vendidit, et nec iussu suo has reddere, nec latrocinia multis a sua potestate nocentia umquam curavit compescere” (Thietmari Chronicon, liber VI, cap. 36, MGH Scriptores III, eds. G.H. Pertz et alia, 1839, p. 821- 822).
 Aurelia Martín Casares, “Evolution of the Origin of Slaves Sold in Spain from the Late Middle Ages till the 18th century”, SERFDOM AND SLAVERY IN THE EUROPEAN ECONOMY 11TH – 18TH CENTURIES, Firenze University Press, 2014, p.416
 Franjo Sanjek, “Les Chretiens Bosniaques et le Mouvement Cathare XII-XV siecles”, Paris/Louvain, 1977, p. 71-72; Peter Patek (Suibertus), “Commentariolum de provinciae Hungariae originibus” in R. Reichert, “Monumenta Ordinis Fr. Praedicatorum Historica I”, Louvain, 1896, p. 305-308.
 Thomas Archidiaconus, “Historia salonitanorum pontificum”, ed. F. Rački, “Monumenta slavorum meridionalium”, t. XVI, 1894, p. 33.
 The sources for these particulars of the crusades against the Bogomils of Bosnia are Rainaldi, an Italian cardinal of the 16th century, whose Ecclesiastical Annals (in twelwe volumes) are a continuation of those written by cardinal Baronius, and cover the period between 1197 and 1566. There is as well Farlati, a writer of the 18th century, author of “Episcopi Bosnenses” in his Illyricum Sacrum. Both were very bitter Roman Catholics and their hatred of the “heretics,” as they called them, is manifested in almost every single line.