Modern sensibilities have clouded historical views of slavery, perhaps more so than any other medieval social institution. Anachronistic economic rationales and notions about the progression of European civilisation have immeasurably distorted our view of slavery in the medieval context. As a result historians have focussed their efforts upon explaining the disappearance of this medieval institution rather than seeking to understand it. This book highlights the extreme cultural/social significance of slavery for the societies of medieval Britain and Ireland c. 800-1200. Concentrating upon the lifestyle, attitudes and motivations of the slave-holders and slave-raiders, it explores the violent activities and behavioural codes of Britain and Ireland’s warrior-centred societies, illustrating the extreme significance of the institution of slavery for constructions of power, ethnic identity and gender.
David Wyatt, Ph.D. (2003) in History, Cardiff University, is the Co-ordinating Lecturer in History at Cardiff University's Centre for Lifelong Learning.
"...David Wyatt is to be praised for focusing on, and giving us plenty of arguments for, the significant cultural aspect of medieval slavery...This work should be on the bookshelf of every student interested in early slavery in Europe...""
Early Medieval Europe, August 2011
“David Wyatt has produced the first comprehensive account of slavery in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and England across the central four centuries of the Middle Ages. He is also sensitive to the Scandinavian influences and ancient Roman as well as Christian traditions that shaped a distinctive northern slavery along the shores of the North and Irish Seas... Vivid and compelling arguments and opinions make clear where Wyatt stands in the vast historiography on slavery... Wyatt has read widely in the sources and scholarly literature, and knows enough languages to recast the entire debate about slavery in northwestern Europe...”
American Historical Review, June 2010, Vol. 115, No. 3: pp. 876-877
"Wyatt successfully presents an analysis of medieval slavery in cultural terms and offers a riposte to traditional interpretations warped by the lens of anachronistic economic principles...Whilst the book will be controversial amongst established medievalists, it offers a new and exciting exploration of how societies worked in Britain and Ireland during the early Middle Ages. As such, it is an essential read for anyone with serious aspirations to scholarship in that field." Richard Marsden,
The Kelvingrove review, 5
"David Wyatt seeks to strip away our modern sensibilities to address the issues in the social political context of the time, in this case AD 800-1200...This is a detailed and scholarly book (shot full with footnotes and source references), fluently written, drawing on many and varied literary illustrations, with an impressive bibliography."
Current Archaeology, September 2009, 234, pp. 46-7.
“truly a study of weighty historical scholarship underpinned by extensive research, utilising studies in many different modern languages, as well as employing archaeological evidence whenever needed. Wyatt seems equally at home with the very complex Irish and Welsh sources alongside the more widely known sources, such as the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. If you wish to understand early medieval society you could do no better than read this all-embracing study of slavery in our islands.”
History Scotland. Vol. 11, No.3, May/June 2011
Table of contents
Acknowledgements List of Illustrations Abbreviations
1. Slavery and Historiography Medieval slavery, modern sensibilities Explaining away medieval slavery Approaching slavery: a case study Defining slavery Approaching the sources Slavery and progress: a self-reflexive perspective
2. Slaves and Warriors Warfare, warriors and slavery Anthropological approaches to the youthful warrior Warfare and masculinity in medieval Ireland; the fían The Mursi: an anthropological parallel Warfare and masculinity: the Scottish context Warfare and masculinity: the Welsh ynfydyon Warfare and masculinity: the Old Norse and Old English evidence Abduction, honour and virilization Slave raiding and virilization: the ‘rape’ of a territory Slavery and patriarchy Ingroup-outgroup: Slaves and the warrior fraternity Conclusions
3. Slavery, Power and Gender Power, honour and gender Powerlessness, shame and gender Slavery and gender
4. Slavery and Sin Sex, sin and slavery Reform ideals vs. warrior norms Challenging warrior norms in Anglo-Saxon society: a case study Reforming the English: the impact of the Norman Conquest Reconfiguring norms of power/gender in post-Conquest society
5. Slavery and Cultural Antipathy The dynamics of cultural antipathy Acculturation, antipathy and the Welsh warrior Acculturation and antipathy in twelfth-century Scotland A clash of cultures? The battle of the Standard, 1138 Invasion, antipathy and slavery in twelfth-century Ireland
Conclusion: The Enduring Legacy of Medieval Slavery
Primary sources Secondary sources
An academic audience of researchers, postgraduates and undergraduates. My argument has implications for all archaeologists and historians of medieval Britain. It also has significant relevance for gender studies/anthropological approaches.