Decrees on Sale of Unfree Christians, c. 922-1171
Even in the tenth and twelfth centuries it was still necessary for Councils of the
Church in Germany, England, and Ireland to forbid the sale of unfree Christians.
Council of Koblenz, 922.
7. Also the question was put what should be done concerning him who led away a
Christian man and then sold him; and the reply of all was that he should be guilty of
Council of London, 1102.
27. Let no one presume for the future to enter into that nefarious business by
which they were accustomed hitherto to sell men like brute animals in England.
Council held at Armagh in Ireland, 1171.
When these things were done the clergy of all Ireland were called to Armagh, and upon
the arrival of foreigners in the island after more negotiation and deliberation the
opinion of all was as follows:
On account of the sins of the people, especially because at one time they were
accustomed to buy Englishmen both from merchants, thieves, and pirates, here and there,
and to reduce them to servitude, this trouble had come upon them by the severity of divine
vengeance, so that they themselves were in turn reduced by the same people to servitude.
For the English people hitherto throughout the whole of their kingdom to the common injury
of their people, had become accustomed to selling their sons and relatives in Ireland, to
expose their children for sale as slaves, rather than suffer any need or want. Wherefore,
it may be believed, just as they were sellers and buyers once, so now they deserve the
yoke of servitude for such an enormity. And so it is decreed in the said council, and
declared with the public consent of all, that wherever the English are throughout the
island they shall be freed from the bond of slavery, and shall receive the liberty they
SOURCE: From: J. D. Mansi, ed., Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova et Amplissima Collectio,
(Paris: H. Welter, 1902), Vol. XVIIIa, p. 345; Vol. XX, p. 1152; Vol. XXII, p. 123;
reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic
History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo
& Tannen, 1965), pp. 285-286.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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