Negotiating Status and Scope of Action — Interrelations between Slavery and Other Forms of Dependency in Early Modern Europe

Gästehaus Teerhof der Universität Bremen, Auf dem Teerhof 58, 28199 Bremen
ERC Project “The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and its Slaves”, Prof. Rebekka v. Mallinckrodt
15.06.2017 - 17.06.2017
Rebekka v. Mallinckrodt

Whilst international research on slavery is increasingly turning its attention to practices of enslavement instead of systems of slavery, the enduring focus on systems spanning large geographical areas has meant that historians have tended to consider slavery and other forms of dependency, such as serfdom, as largely independent entities. This is related not least to the fact that in the case of the transatlantic slave trade, slavery and serfdom were generally designated to different geographical areas: the former to the colonies and the latter to Europe. Recent research, however, continues to amass evidence of forcibly transported and enslaved persons within Europe, provoking the question as to what extent slavery and other forms of bondage and dependency influenced each other. Contemporaries were already aware of the problem of how to define the legal and social status of trafficked persons within societies that did not consider themselves slave-holding — at least with regards to the European “motherland”— and, as a consequence, often had no or at best ambiguous legislation at their disposal. This problem affected in equal measure persons forcibly transported via the transatlantic and the Mediterranean slave trade as well as persons brought to Europe independently of these systems.
Taking a praxeological approach, the conference will pursue the following questions:
- How did contemporaries negotiate the legal and social status of persons forcibly transported to Europe? How did naming, court rulings, contracts, bureaucratic procedures and everyday practices mark commonalities and/or differences between slavery and other forms of bondage and dependency?
- To what extent did contemporaries assign to these persons existing legal, economic and social forms of bondage and dependency, such as the status of prisoner of war, convict, serf, domestic servant, or ward?
- What role did the age, gender, “race” and religion of trafficked persons play in this process of assignation?
- Did these processes of negotiation have repercussions for existing forms of bondage and dependency in Europe?

The conference is organized and funded as part of the ERC project “The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and its Slaves.”


Thursday, June 15th 2017

09:30-10:00 Welcome and Introduction (Rebekka v. Mallinckrodt)

Section 1: Netherlands
Chair & Comment: Josef Köstlbauer (University of Bremen)

10:00-10:45 Mark Ponte (Amsterdam City Archives): Negotiating Freedom. Free and Enslaved Africans in Seventeenth Century Amsterdam

10:45-11:15 coffee break

11:15-12:00 Julia Holzmann (University of Bremen): Conflicts and Relations Between Slavery, Dependency, Poverty and Coerced Labor in 18th Century Amsterdam – The Case “Christina from India”

12:00-12:45 Michel R. Doortmont (University Groningen & Leiden University)/ Annemieke van der Vegt (independent researcher): Understanding African Identity in the Eighteenth-Century Netherlands: Between a Boy Servant at the Court of Orange-Nassau and a Lord of the Manor in the Province of Groningen

13:00-14:30 lunch break

Section 2: Italy & Sweden
Chair & Comment: Juliane Schiel (University of Zurich)

14:30-15:15 Giulia Bonazza (European University Institute Florence): Different Forms of Bondage in the Mediterranean: the Italian Case (1750-1850)

15:15-16:00 Joachim Östlund (Lund University): The Legal and Social Status of Persons of African Descent in Eighteenth Century Sweden

16:00-16:30 coffee break

16:30-17:30 keynote lecture: Wolfgang Kaiser (Paris 1/ EHESS): Fragile Lives. Risk and Uncertainty in the Early Modern Mediterranean

Friday, June 16th 2017

Section 3: Denmark/ Norway
Chair & Comment: Juliane Schiel (University of Zurich)

09:30-10:15 Gunvor Simonsen (University of Copenhagen): Slavery and Race in Copenhagen in the Eighteenth Century

10:15-11:00 Hanne Østhus (independent researcher): Slaves and Servants. Domestics Transported from the Colonies to Denmark-Norway in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries

11:00-11:30 coffee break

11:30-12:15 Johan Heinsen (Aalborg University): The Meaning of Slavery in Early Modern Denmark-Norway [interrelations Between Penal Work and Slavery]

12:30-14:00 lunch break

Section 4: Spain
Chair & Comment: Christian De Vito (University of Leicester/ University of Utrecht)

14:00-14:45 Aurelia Martín-Casares (University of Granada): Juan Latino: The First Afro-European Humanist from Slave Origin

14:45-15:30 Rocío Periañez (University of Extremadura)/ Marie-Christine Delaigue (University of Granada): Slaves Before the Courts in Early Modern Spain: the Case of Extremadura

15:30-16:00 coffee break

16:00-16:45 Arturo Morgado (University of Cadiz): Freedmen at Early Modern Spain: Ways of Liberation and Social Integration?

Saturday, June 17th 2017

Section 5: Holy Roman Empire & Great Britain
Chair & Comment: Eve Rosenhaft (University of Liverpool)

09:30-10:15 Arne Spohr (Bowling Green State University): Free Through Membership in the Imperial Trumpeters’ Guild? On the Legal and Social Position of Black Court Trumpeters in the Holy Roman Empire

10:15-11:00 Rebekka v. Mallinckrodt (University of Bremen): Interrelations Between Slavery and Serfdom – German Legal Case Studies

11:00-11:30 coffee break

11:30-12:15 Kathleen Chater (independent researcher): Conditions of Service in Britain in the Long Eighteenth Century

12:30-14:00 lunch break

Section 6: France
Chair & Comment: Josef Köstlbauer (University of Bremen)

14:00-14:45 Sue Peabody (Washington State University Vancouver): Barriers to Accessing France’s Sol Libre in Early Modern France

15:00-16:00 keynote lecture: Myriam Cottias (Directrice de recherche au CNRS/ Senior Researcher, National Center for Scientific Research): Agency and Subjectivity of the Enslaved in the Atlantic

16:00-16:15 coffee break

16:15-16:45 final discussion, publication plans, deadlines etc.

If you want to attend the conference, please contact Dr. Stefanie Walther ( until June 10th, 2017 at the latest. Conference fee: 30,- € (including coffee, tea, cold beverages etc.) or 90,- € (including 3 x lunch).


Stefanie Walther

Universität Bremen

Negotiating Status and Scope of Action — Interrelations between Slavery and Other Forms of Dependency in Early Modern Europe, 15.06.2017 – 17.06.2017 Bremen, in: H-Soz-Kult, 30.05.2017, <>.