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.
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
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© Paul Halsall, October 1998