Whitish-Brown, Reddish-White, or Medium Color: Race, Slavery, and Complexion in Late Medieval Genoa

Friday, January 5, 2018: 10:30 AM
Columbia 7 (Washington Hilton)
Hannah Barker, Rhodes College
Religious difference was the legal basis of slavery in the Mediterranean during the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries. Nevertheless, Genoese notaries used racial categories such Tatar, Russian, and Circassian to identify slaves in legal documents. These medieval racial categories were constructed differently than our current ones. They were generally considered to be fixed and inherent, but they were not strongly associated with skin color. References to color in slave-related documents were rare. When color was mentioned, it indicated complexion, the humoral balance of the slave’s body, and therefore had more to do with the slave’s state of health than his or her race.
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