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Domestic Slavery and Sexual Exploitation in the Households of Europe, North Africa, and the Near East, from Constantine to c. AD 900 / AH 287

Description du projet

Esclavage domestique et exploitation sexuelle

Les personnes non libres dans le contexte des mondes tardif et post-romain étaient particulièrement vulnérables à la violence et à l’exploitation. Dans ce contexte, le projet DOMSLAVE, financé par le CER, étudiera les motivations et les justifications de l’exploitation sexuelle des esclaves domestiques. Pour améliorer notre compréhension de l’esclavage et de la société au sens large du IVe au IXe siècle, le projet étudiera également comment l’expérience vécue dans le ménage a façonné le contenu de nos sources historiques. Plus précisément, le projet étudiera comment un héritage romain commun a influencé les pratiques ultérieures et expliquera les similitudes et les différences constatées au sein des communautés musulmanes, chrétiennes et juives de la région.


The sexual exploitation of the unfree within the households of the late- and post-Roman world profoundly affected wider society in ways that necessitate a large-scale, multi-contextual collaborative investigation.

During this transformative period, Christianity established itself as the defining institution of the Latin West and Greek East; complex Islamicate societies emerged in the Near East, North Africa, and Spain; and Jewish communities developed a unique network across the region. As dynamic forces swept across these diverse societies and overturned longstanding customs, beliefs, and practices, the household stood firm as the fundamental unit of social organisation – a microcosm in which identities (male/female, slave/free, adult/child, local/foreign) were formed and reinforced.

Unfree people living in these domestic contexts were particularly vulnerable to violence and exploitation. Neither was this incidental to their condition. The shame associated with their sexual use at the hands of those who held power over them helped maintain the institution of domestic slavery and stabilise wider social hierarchies during an era of headlong change, though in ways that are only poorly understood.

This research project will reconstruct the motivations and justifications behind the sexual exploitation of domestic slaves, identify how the lived experience in the household shaped the content of our sources, reveal how a common Roman inheritance impacted later practices, and explain the similarities and differences found within Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities across the region. By approaching the sexual exploitation of slaves as a social practice with its own particular logic and rationale, and by analysing the whole of the greater Mediterranean world as a single, interconnected cultural zone, this project will overcome divides in scholarship to dramatically advance our understanding of slavery and wider society from the 4th to 9th centuries.

Régime de financement

ERC-COG - Consolidator Grant


Contribution nette de l'UE
€ 1 994 231,00
University road
LE1 7RH Leicester

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East Midlands (England) Leicestershire, Rutland and Northamptonshire Leicester
Type d’activité
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Autres sources de financement
€ 0,00

Bénéficiaires (1)