What Does the Slave Trade in the Saqaliba Tell Us about Early Islamic Slavery?

Marek Jankowiak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The Saqaliba—a term that in medieval Arabic literature denoted the Slavic populations of central and eastern Europe (and possibly some of their neighbors)—offer a particularly insightful case study of the mechanisms of the early Islamic slave trade and the nature of the Muslim demand for slaves. What makes them such an ideal case study is their high visibility in texts produced in the Islamic world between the early 9th and early 11th centuries. Arab geographers and diplomats investigated their origins, while archaeological material, primarily hundreds of thousands of dirhams found in Scandinavia and the Slavic lands, contains traces of the trade in them. By combining these strands of evidence, we can build an exceptionally detailed image of slave trade systems that supplied Saqaliba to the Islamic markets, which, in turn, can be used to illustrate more general mechanisms governing the trade in and demand for slaves in the medieval Islamic world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-172
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Journal of Middle East Studies
Issue number1
Early online date20 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


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