People in the Middle Ages and the early modern age more often suffered from imprisonment and enslavement than we might have assumed. Incarceration and Slavery in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age approaches these topics from a wide variety of perspectives and demonstrates collectively the great relevance of the issues involved. Both incarceration and slavery were (and continue to be) most painful experiences, and no one was guaranteed exemption from it. High-ranking nobles and royalties were often the victims of imprisonment and, at times, had to wait many years until their ransom was paid. Similarly, slavery existed throughout Christian Europe and in the Arab world. However, while imprisonment occasionally proved to be the catalyst for major writings and creativity, slaves in the Ottoman empire and in Egypt succeeded in rising to the highest position in society (Janissaries, Mamluks, and others).
Albrecht Classen is University Distinguished Professor of German studies at the University of Arizona.
Introduction: Historical, Literary, and Philosophical Reflections on the Phenomena of Imprisonment and Slavery in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period
Chapter 1: The Transformation of Gehenna: Taking the Biblical Wasteland into the Prison House of Hell
Chapter 2: Insprinc haptbandun, inuar uigandun: Magical (?) Remedies to Escape from Imprisonment in the Germanic Tradition
Chapter 3: Ambivalence in the Poems of the Slave-Knight ‘Antarah Ibn Shaddād: An Engagement with Historicism(s)
Chapter 4: Slavery and Anti-Slavery Discourse in the Qur’an: A New-Historicist Reading
Christiane Paulus and Magda Hasabelnaby
Chapter 5: The Tragic Incarceration and Martyrdom of Al-Hallaj: A Spiritual Passage from Suffering to Glorification
Chapter 6: Fruitless Wars and Abominable Crimes: Unfreedom in the Political Rule and Violence of Late Ninth-Century Southern Italy
Chapter 7: Prisons That Never Were: Ruins, Churches, and Cruelty in Medieval and Modern Iberia (Eighth Through Nineteenth Centuries)
Chapter 8: Tit for Tat: Imprisonment, Slavery, Torture and Other Retribution in William IX’s Gab of the Red Cat
Chapter 9: Thralls in Old Icelandic Literature: Historical Trope or Literary Device?
Chapter 10: Piracy, Imprisonment, Merchants, and Freedom: Rudolf von Ems’s The Good Gerhart (ca. 1220): Mediterranean Perspectives in a Middle High German Context; with Some Reflections on the Topic of Imprisonment in Other Medieval Narratives
Chapter 11: Don Juan Manuel’s Long-Lost Uncle, Don Enrique: Back From Twenty-Five Years in Captivity in Italy
Maria Cecilia Ruiz
Chapter 12: Mamlūks, Qaḍis, and the Local Population: A Discourse of Resistance, Power, and Liminality in Medieval Egypt
Chapter 13: The Education of Male Slaves in the Ottoman Empire and the Restructuring of Ottoman Social Hierarchy
Chapter 14: From Imprisonment to Liberation: Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale as a Multi-Layered Exploration of a Paradigm for Prison Life
Daniel F. Pigg
Chapter 15: How to Get Out of Prison: Imprisoned Jews and Their Hafturfehde: Records from the Medieval and Early Modern Holy Roman Empire (Fourteenth to Sixteenth Centuries)
Andreas Lehnertz and Birgit Wiedl
Chapter 16: Overcoming Stress in Imprisonment: How Positive Religious Coping and Expressive Writing Helped Fray Luis de León Survive His Inquisitorial Trial (1572‒1576)
J. Michael Fulton
Chapter 17: Health and Community Rescue or Soul Salvation? Incarceration as an Anti-Plague Measure in the Czech Lands in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
Chapter 18: Shakespeare’s Savage Slave
At last the medieval dungeon of our fantasies has been given back its existential realities and usefully put into historical perspective, with exciting contributions by over twenty highly accomplished scholars in a richly illustrated and finely edited collection.
In this volume are presented eighteen different essays that explore slavery and imprisonment as well as the circumstances that encouraged, condoned or condemned it. These studies, framed by a substantial introduction, consider perspectives from Muslim, Jewish and Christian societies of the late antique through early modern eras. They range from treatments literary to historical, whether of individuals or groups, examining ways in which freedoms were taken away through punishment or misfortune while considering the impacts of gender and class on these losses of liberty. This is a book that, beyond its historical boundaries, resonates with contemporary concerns regarding human freedoms and dignities. It will be of interest to scholars in many disciplines, including literary, economic, religious, social and military historians.