Our information on slavery in medieval Spain, including the Islamic period is limited at this time. Spain as one of the major colonial powers partipated in the African slave trade. The earliest steps were taken by the Portuguese, but the Spanish quickly followed suit. Spain was primarily involved in the Atlantic slave trade because of their Caribbean colonies. The Spanish used Native Americans as a labor force un their mainland colonies, esopecially Peu and Mexico. This did not prove feasible in the Caibbean because through abuse and disease, the Native Ameicans largely perished. And as sugar became the dominant crop, labor hd to be obtained--large numbers if workers as sugar was a labor-intensive crop. The Spanish imported large numbers of slaves into its Cariben island colonies, the islands of the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico. The Spanish began importing slaves into Jamaica, but this island was seized by the British. The French seizd the lightly settled western portion of Hispaniola, which became St. Dominique (modern Haiti). Spanish slavers supplied slaves, but Portuguese slavers at first played an important role . Later British and other European slavers also delivered slaves. After the Napoleonic Wars when Britain began a campaign to end the slave trade, the Spanish were not cooperative. Spain contunued to maintain slavery on Cuba and Puerto Rico into the late-19th century after slavery had been abolished elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Slavery was a major economic and social institution in Europe during the classical era. A great deal is known about the Greeks and Romans. The Romans added Iberia to their empire after the defeat f Carthage in the First Punic War (2nd century BC). We know little specifically about slavery in Roman Iberia.
The Visagoths (Germanic tribe) in the 5th century AD seized control of the region as the Roman Empire fell. Portugal and Spain at the time did not exist as separate kingdoms, but was just part of the Visigothic Iberian kingdom. The Visitogthic ruling class lived apart and heavily taxed the Hispano Roman population. We do not know at this time about slavery in the Visigthic Kingdom. As in the rest of Europe that was a gradual transition the fedualism and serdom. I don't think, however, that slavery entirely disappeaed.
The Arabs did not begin the African slave trade. African slaves were known in the Roman Empire and a major sevtion of the Roman Empire was North Africa. It was the Arabs, however who founded the African slave trade during the modern era. Thi occurred early in the Islamic era. The Arabs during the Islamic expansion began setting up trading posts along the Indian Ocean coast of Africa. Other Arab traders penetrated through Caravan routes. Much more is known about the European segment of the African slave trade, in part because records are much more readily available. And there is much more human evidence of the Atlantic slave trade--namely the large Afro-American populations in Brazil, the United States, and other Western Hemisphere countries. Much less is known about the Arab segment of the African slave trade. The slave trade in East Africa was carried out by agents of the Sultanate of Zanzibar in cooperation with some African tribes. The Arab slavers had various ways of obtaining Africans. Armed gangs of Arabs and Muslim Africans would conduct raids and simply seize Africans. The Arabs had three major routes for transporting their captive Africans to slave markets in Norh Africa and the Middle East. The Eastern slave trade differed from the Atlantic slave trade in that there were many more women involved. The reason for this was that the sex trade was an important part of the Muslim market for slaves. The use of slaves, however, depended upon the chronological era and the country wherethey were enslaved. They were also used for labor, largely agricultural labor.
The pattern of slavery and serfdom in Portugal and Spain differed from than the rest of Western Europe because of the Islamic conquest. Moors from North Africa crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and defeated the Visigothic rulers of Iberia (8th century). They established moorish kingdoms in Iberia. Classical-style slavery continued longer in southern Europe than in the north. And trade between Christian Europe across the Mediterranean with Islamic North Africa meant that black African slaves appeared in Italy, Spain, Southern France, and Portugal. The Islanic conquest in Portugal and Spain changed this patttern. Trade ties between the Moorish kingdoms and the North Africam Moorish state meanthat there was a freerer flow of trade than with Italy and southern France. In additin, the Moors reduced some Spanards and Portuguese Christians to slvery. We do not yet, however, understand the extent and nature of slavery in the Moorish kingdoms. Another factor was that many Moors were to varying degrees of African extraction. Thus there was not a clear racial compoment to slavery in Iberia. While there were some Africn slaves, the Moors had many many European slaves.
The Moors never succeeded in totally subduing Christian forces. A small Christain kingdom. Asturias, was established in the north by Pelayo, a surviving Visogothic chieftan who was the successor to the defeated Roderick (718). As the Moors sent an army across the Pyreneees, we are not sure why they allowed this small Christian kingdom survive south of the Pyrenees. Pelayo's son-in-law Alfonso the Catholic during his reign (739-57) using Asturias as a base recaptured most of modern Galacia and Léon. He was crowned king of Léon and Asturias. These victories were in part the result of a weak series of Spanish emirs and the disorder in the Islamic world caused by the conlict between the Ommiads and Abbassides over control of the Caliphate. Thus only a few decades after the Moorish conquest, an important Christian kingdom was established in northern Spain. The Caliphiate after Hisham III died split into several independent kingdoms (1031). Like the Christians kingdoms, these small kindoms often warred with each other. The Moorish kingdoms included: Córdoba, Granada, Lisbon, Murcia, Saragossa, Seville, Toledo, and Valencia. The disappearance of a strong central Moorish power provided an opportunity for the Christians who conquered some of the kingdoms and made others tributary states. The Abbadid kings of Seville (1023-91) attempted to restore a united Moorish state. King Alfonso VI of Castile and Léon marched against the Moors and took Toledo (1086). Abbad III of Seville, faced with defeat at the hands of Alfonso, asked for aid from Muslim North Africa. The Almoravides dispatched military assistance. They not only defeated Alfonso (1086), but deposed Abbad III and the other rulers of the Moslem kingdoms. The Almoravide ruler soon controlled Moslem Spain (by 1100). Another Muslim army, the Almohades invaded Spain from North Africa (1145) and had within 5 years replaced the Almoravide dynasty. While the Moors were fighting among themselves, Christain kings steadily pushed south and increasingly cooperated with each other. The fighting between contending Moorish armies had weakened the Moorish forces. The decisive battle for the future of Spain was fought on the open plain in front of Toledo. (The city of Toledo sits on a rocky prominannce in the midst of a flat virtually treeless plain. The united Christain forces decisively defeated the Moorish army and expelled the Almohades from Spain (1212). This broke the power of the Moors in Spain. The Moors held on in ports around Cadiz and the Kingdom of Grenada in the extremne south. Although small in size, Grenada was until its fall, the most splendid of the Spanish kingdoms. The Reconquista was not completed util the fall of Grenada (1492). We do not yet know much about slavery in Spain durin the era of the Reconquista.
The Ottoman seizure of Constaniople (1453) and other advances helped cut Europe off from trade with the East, both China and India. As trade with the East had to pass through Otooman controlled areas, this greatly increased the cost of such products. The demand for opium, porcelin, silk, spice, and other products caused Europeans to seek alternative routes. Europeans had no idea at the time how far Africa extended south. The Portuguese set out with voyages south to determine how far it did extend in an effort to round it. This brought the Portuguese in contact with black Africa. The Sahara and an Arab dominated Magreb (North Africa) loosely tied to the Ottomans had for centuries stood between Christian Europe and black Africa.
Portugal began the great European voyages of discovery (mid-15th century). As a result for the first time Europeans came into direct contact with black Africans. Portuguese traders brought blacks to Portugal for sale as slaves. Others were used as slaves on sugar plantations off the coast of Africa. The Portuguese also sold slves in Spain. This alerted the Spanish to the commercial possibilities. Spanish traders then began their own expeditions south along the coast of Africa. Thus Spanish interst in African slaves began well before they had American colonies and Caribbean sugar islands. Pope Nicholas V issues the bull (papal decree) Dum Diversas scantioning the developing Portuguese pratice of reducing non-Christians to the condition of slavery (1452). The pope did not touch on the issue of race. Portuguese and Spanish competition in the African trade led to a rivalry that threatened conflict. As the Portuguese Pope Nicholas V to defuse the developin rivalry issued the bull Romanus Pontifex which granted the the Portuguese a perpetual monopoly in trade with Africa. (1454), Spanish traders, however, continued voyages along the African coast and among other goods brought back captured Africans as slaves. Portuguese slavers begin to operate openly in Seville (1462). This not only supplies African slaves to the Spanish, but stimulates commercial interest in the slave trade among the Spanish. And the Spanish defying the papal ban began trading in slaves on a substantial level (1470s). Carlos de Valera of Castille brought back 400 slaves from Africa (1476). For some time Portuguese explorrs had been slowly inching down the African coast. It was Bartolomeo Dias who took the hge leap and final step. He rounded the Cape of Good Hope and explored the Indian Ocean and the East African coast (1487-88). This opened European access to the east. Ferdinand ad Isabella complete the Reconquista by conquering the Moorish kingdom of Grenada (1492).
The Moors areallowed to depart the city, taking their Christian slaves with them. The Spanish retain their Moorish slaves. The final sucess of the Reconquista frees resources for other oprjects. Ferdinand and Isabella funded Columbus' voyage. Only a few years after Diaz's great achievement, Columbus' great voyage opened up further oportunities to the West (1492). Both the Portuguese and Spanish attempt to enslave the Native Americans. Columbus on his second voyage initiates the first transatlantic slave voyage, a shipment of several hundred Taino people seized on Hispaniola and brought bavk to Spain (1493). Some Spainards raise doubts about the legality of their enslavement. The Spanish proceeded to enslave Native Americans in the new colonies American colonies. Columbus founded the first European colony in the New World: La Isabela. It was on the northern coast of Hispaniola (modern Dominican Republic) (1493). The Spanish brng small numbers of Native Americans back to Spain. Columbus returns from his second voyage, carrying around 30 Native American (1496). Further questins are raised about enslavng Native Americans. Much larger numbers are enslaved in the Caribbean islands and later the mainland. The Portguese do the same. Portuguese explorers Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Hojeda captured 200 Native Americans along the coast of South America and sell them as slaves in Cádiz (1499).
The marriage of Ferdinand V of Castile and Isabella I of Aragon essentially united the Iberaian peninsula, except Portugal, into a Spanish monarchy (1479). The last Moorish city, Granada fell (1492). With the Moors at last defeated, the Spanish could turn their energies into naval expansion, but weree behind the Portuguese in this area. Genonese navigator Christopher Columbus is the most renowned of all the great explorers. He sailed west under the banner of their most Cathlolic magesties Ferdinand and Isabella, hoping to reach the Indies (1492). The voyage was intensely debated by Spanish authorities. Knowledgeable people did not believe that the orld was flat. Many did believe that the world was so large that the crews of ships sailing west would perish before reaching Asia. Coilumbus of course found America, although it was not until his third voyage that he began to realize that he had found an entire new continent. Nuñez de Balboa reached the Pacific over the Istmus of Panama (1513). Charles I commissioned Magellan to find a passage through the Americas to the Spice Islands. Magellan sailed from Seville (1519) and explored the Plate estuary (1520) before crossing into the Pacific through the straits at the tip of South America now named for him. He claimed the Philippines for Spain, but was killed there (1521). One if his ships managed to return to Seville, completing the first circimnavigatiin of the world (1522). Conquistadores Hernado Cortes and Francisco Pizarro conquered the Aztec and Incan civilizations, laying claim to great wealth and a vast colonial empire for Spain. Although at first disappointed with their new lands, the conquest of the Aztecs and Incas brought vast quantities of gold and silver flooding into Spain and through Spain the rest of Europe and had an enormous impact on the still largely feudal European economies. Many other new products were broughtb back to Spain. One of these, the humble potato, had an even more profound impact than the gold and silver. Coronado and Ponce de León expanded the Spanish claim to North America as well.
Slavery was an established economic and social institution in Spain at the time of the Conquest and was introduced in the new colonies and became a part of the Spanish imperial system. The Spanish iniitially reduced the Native Amercan peoples in their New Empire to slaves begining in the first colony--Hispaiola (1490s). Led by Spanish fiars, the Spanish engaged in long runing debate in the humanity of the native peoples. As a result, the Ameri-Indians were found to be humans and insted of slavery the Amer-Indians in the Andes and Meso-America became a landless feudal peasantry. The New World was, howver, a long way from Masrid and in many instances what occurred was more like actual slavery. In other areas such as the Southen Cone, the Amerr-Indian pipulation resisted the Spanush, they were hunted down and killed. Only the Mapuche in souther Chile put up a major effort to resist. The native people throughout the Spanish coloniies provided the primary work force. Tragically the diseases introduced by the Spanish decimated the Amer-Indian population creating a labor shortage. (Other Europeans introiduced these diseases, but it was the Spanish that conquered the great Ameri-Indian empires with the largest populations.)
The New Laws prohinited the enslavement of Amer-Indiansd (1543). The Spanish was involved in the enslavement of captive Africans. Many of the Africans deliovered to the Spanish Empire were transported by other countries. [LDHI]
The great bulk of enslaved Adfricas were transported to Brazil and the Caribbean sugar islands but a substantial number went to the Spanish Empire as well. Over 2O percent of the transported Africans were landed in the Spanish Empire. [Frankel] They were importahnt only in a few areas, primarily tropical coastal area -- in South America (northern Ecuador--Esmeraldas) and in the Caribbean coast of Coloumbia and Venezuela. The Spanish did not initially use African slaves in the enormously profitable sugar indusry in the Spanish Main (the Caribbean). Rather the focus of Spanish conquest, rapidly shiifted to the mainland and the gold-rich Amer-Indian empires.
Some Spaniards, mostly clerics and lawyers, questioned the save trade from its very inception. When Portuguese and Spanish traders began brining captives Africans back for slave labor, there was some concern in Spain (15th century). This concerned intensified as the African slave trade expanded and Spanish settlers began enslaving Native Americans. Domingo de Soto argued that it was morally enslave people who were born free. (1556) [De Soto] Tomás de Mercado, a Dominican friar in Seville, published an attack on the slave trade (1569). [De Mercado]. Bartolemé Frías de Albornoz, a lawyer working in Mexico, questiojs the legality of the slave trade (1573). [Frías de Albornoz]
Spain as one of the major colonial powers partipated in the African slave trade. The earliest steps were taken by the Portuguese, but the Spanish quickly followed suit. Spain was primarily involved in the Atlantic slave trade because of their Caribbean colonies. The Spanish used Native Americans as a labor force on their mainland colonies, especially Peru and Mexico. This did not prove feasible in the Caibbean because through abuse and disease, the Native Ameicans largely perished. And as sugar became the dominant crop, labor hd to be obtained--large numbers if workers as sugar was a labor-intensive crop. The Spanish imported large numbers of captive Africans as slaves into its Caribbean island colonies. The principal Spanish colonies were the islands of the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico). The Spanish began importing slaves into Jamaica, but this island was seized by the British. The French seized the lightly settled western portion of Hispaniola, which became St. Dominique (modern Haiti). Spanish slavers supplied slaves, but Portuguese slavers at first played an important role. Later British and other European slavers also delivered slaves. The Spanish were unable to prevent the other European colonial powers from seizing the smaller islands of the Lesser Antilles. Over time other European countries seized Caribbean islands and also turned to sugar and slave labor. After the Napoleonic Wars when Britain began a campaign to end the slave trade, the Spanish were not cooperative. Spain contunued to maintain slavery on Cuba and Puerto Rico into the late-19th century after slavery had been abolished elsewhere in the Caribbean.
The British launched a campaign to end the slave trade. It began during the Napoleonic War with both a religiously motivated moral commitment and a strategic desire to undermine France. After ththe defeat of Napoleon the campaign took on increasingly moral dimensions. The British persued a dual campaign. First a Royal Navy effort to stop slavers and a diplomatic campaign to get the various European powers and America to cooperate. The Royal Navy campsaign would prove to be the longest campaign in the its long history. The diplomatic campaign would prove to be an enormously difficult undertaking. Other countries were involved in the campaign to end the slave trade, but it was an effort pushed by the British Abolitionist movement and conducted by the Royal Navy.
Spain for the most part, however, refused to cooperate with the British effort to end the slave trade.
Frankel, Neil A. "The Atlantic slave trade ans slavery in America".
Frías de Albornoz, Bartolemé. Arte de los contratos (The Art of Contracts) (1573).
Lowcountry Digital History Initiative (LDHI). "The Early Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: Emperor Charles V · African Laborers for a New Empire" Iberia, Slavery, and the Atlantic World (College of Charlston).
De Mercado, Tomás. Tratos y contratos de mercaderes (Practices and Contracts of Merchants) (1569).
De Soto, Domingo. De justicia et de jure libri (On Justice and Free Life (1556). This was a 10 volume study on hjustice and law.
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