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Slavery in Spain

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Slavery in Spain

Slavery in Spain can be traced to the times of the Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans. In the 800s the Muslim Moorish rulers and local Jewish merchants traded in Spanish and Eastern European Christian slaves. Christian Spain began to trade slaves in the 1400s and this trade reached its peak in the 16th century. The history of Spanish slavery began with Portuguese captains Antão Gonçalves and Nuno Tristão in 1441. The first large group of African slaves, made up of 235 slaves, came with Lançarote de Freitas three years later.[1] In 1462, Portuguese slave traders began to operate in Seville, Spain. During the 1470s, Spanish merchants began to trade large numbers of slaves. Slaves were auctioned at market at a Cathedral, and subsequently were transported to cities all over Imperial Spain. This led to the spread of Moorish, African, and Christian slavery in Spain. By the 16th century, 7.4 percent of the population in Seville, Spain were slaves. Many historians have concluded that Renaissance and early-modern Spain had the highest amount of African slaves in Europe.[2]

The problem of the justness of Indian slavery was a key issue for the Spanish Crown. It was Charles V who gave a definite answer to this complicated and delicate matter. To that end, on November 25, 1542, the Emperor abolished slavery by decreed in his Leyes Nuevas New Laws. This bill was based on the arguments given by the best Spanish theologists and jurists who were unanimous in the condemnation of such slavery as unjust; they declared it illegitimate and outlawed it from America—not just the slavery of Spaniards over Indians—but also the type of slavery practiced among the Indians themselves[3]

Thus, Spain became the first country to abolish slavery.

Christian slavery in Spain

During the Al-Andalus period of Spain, in what is also known as Moorish Iberia, there was significant Muslim control over much of the Iberian peninsula or what is now Spain. The Moors (Iberian and North African Muslims) imported white Christian slaves into Muslim Spain in varying degrees from the 8th century until the Reconquista in the late 15th century. The slaves were exported from the Christian section of Spain, as well as Eastern Europe by Jewish slave traders, sparking significant reaction from many in Christian Spain and many Christians still living in Muslim Spain. The Iberian peninsula served as a base for further exports of slaves into other Muslim regions in Northern Africa.[4]

African slavery in Spain

In 1442 [6]

Moorish slavery in Spain

The Moors (North African and Iberian Muslims) often served as slaves in Christian Spain. These slaves were captured from Muslim Spain and North Africa and imported into the Christian section of the Iberian peninsula. When the Moors were forcibly evicted from Spain, in 1610, moorish slaves were allowed to stay, however, they were forced to convert to Christianity. There were relatively low quantities of moorish slaves in comparison to African slave in comparison to black slaves due to the differences in population; however, there were booms of moorish slaves in 1606 and 1618 due to restrictions placed on importation and exportation of black slaves. Moorish slaves were finally outlawed in Spain in 1646; however, other forms of slavery did continue on the peninsula.[7]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Perry's Handbook, Sixth Edition, McGraw–Hill Co., 1984.
  3. ^ Garcia Anoveros, J.M. Carlos V y la abolicion de la exclavitud de los indios, Causas, evolucion y circunstancias. Revista de Indias, 2000, vol. LX, núm. 218
  4. ^ Trade and traders in Muslim Spain, Fourth Series, Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440–1870, Tenth Edition, Simon and Schuster., 1997.
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