Video: Introduction to the Slavic Slave Trade

This was a very interesting video. I have already written about some of the things contained therein but I found it very informative and well-made.

I would like to add two more things about what Ibrahim ibn Ya’qub said about Bohemian slavs (11:22 in the video).

  1. Strange as it seems, the Bohemians are dark-skinned and black-haired. A blond person can rarely be found among them” –  I like to quote this one to any Slavic racists and white supremacists (there is no shortage of those, unfortunately). This Arabic merchant saw a thousand years ago that Slavic people look so markedly different from Germanic tribes who also live in Northern Europe, that he thought it worth writing down.
  2. In Bawaymah they make light cloths shaped like a half moon and having the form of a net. They do not fit to anything. At every time their value is of ten cloths for a qinshar. They use them for purchases and transactions and possess entire jars of them. For them, they are money and the most precious thing with which one can buy wheat, flour, horses, gold, silver, and all the rest” – This is thought to be information about using small pieces of cloth that have no other purpose than to be used as money – essentially the early medieval equivalent of paper money. There are no written Slavic sources from this time so information about early Slavic cultures is very scarce and this particular thing is not AFAIK mentioned anywhere else. But it seems to be corroborated by etymology – the Czech verb “platit” and Slovak “platiť” (to pay) are derived from word “plátno” (cloth). The same goes for Polish płacić and for Russian (плати́ть) and Ukrainian (плати́ти) too. (I do not know why FtB messes up Cyrillic script, it just does).(Edit: the script is messed up in the writing interface but it looks ok in the published article. curiouser and curiouser).


  1. crivitz says

    A very interesting video, I always enjoy learning history. It seems that the more you learn, the more you realize that there’s much more to learn.

    Also interesting to find out the Slav/slave connection. I’d heard something about it years ago, but figured it was some sort of racist slur (which I guess it actually is) and didn’t realize how widespread slave trading was in Europe and Asia and the four reasons given for why the Slavic peoples were often raided by the slave traders. History is also quite depressing when you learn that “the good old days” were not as wonderful as you had previously believed and how horribly people have treated each other throughout history. The only positive takeaway I got from the video was that the Slavic slave trade seems to have been somewhat more humane when contrasted to the slave trade in the western hemisphere.

  2. Tethys says

    I have not read Ibrahim ibn Jakob though I have read the other history mentioned in the video that recounts the Varangians and late Nordic trade networks of the Byzantine era.

    He does not go into much detail on the fact that slaves were a common trade ‘good’, but the video was very good about not skipping over the horrible history of European slavery. It’s refreshing to hear a scholar be adamant about the etymology of the word Slav itself connected with the historical rise of Christianity in Europe.

    The Wends/Vendels originated in Silesia and the most famous one is Wayland the Smith.
    The Silingi are mentioned in a few sources, and the metal working ability of their craftsman led to Saxons carrying off entire villages of skilled artisans. It is unclear if they are Slavic in addition to being enslaved, but the history and geography supports that identification.

    It is very rare pre 1300s for anyone to remark on complexion or hair color. Place of origin was used to categorize people. Blonde is mentioned more than any other shade for being unusual or remarkable in any way.

    Pope Gregory made the original pun about blonde slave children for sale in a Roman slave market being angels rather than Angles from Anglia.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    Wow, that hypothesis that slave trading was the foundation of western European economic dominance was a real gut punch. I already knew that much of the USA’s rise was due to stolen Black and Latinx labor (not to mention all the land we stole), but to see it seriously proposed that even all the way back to our ancestors in western Europe, our sucesses were mostly due to us being more ruthless thieves than most other people, that’s an eye-opener.

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