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Medieval Sourcebook:
William the Conqueror: Sale of Slaves in England, c. 1080


William the Conqueror found slaves being sold from the north of England and from Bristol, but despite his laws the trade, according to Giraldus Cambrensis, was still being carried on a century later.

Let Christians not be sold outside of the land or to heathens:

41. Also we forbid any one to sell a Christian into a foreign land and especially to heathens. For let great care be taken lest their souls for which Christ gave His life be sold into damnation.

Concerning serfs and their manumission:

15. And we prohibit any one to sell a man out of the country. But if he, who wishes to make his serf free, hand him over to the sheriff by his right hand in full assembly, he must proclaim him quit of the yoke of his servitude by manumission, and show him free ways and gates and give him arms, viz., lance and sword; finally the man is made free.


Source.

From: Benjamin Thorpe, ed., Ancient Laws and Institutes of England, (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1840), pp. 479, 493; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, eds., A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 277-278.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, October 1998
halsall@fordham.edu