The Sources Matter: On an Erroneous Concept Concerning Ransom and Exchange of Captives in the Early Medieval Balkans


The research efforts concerning the topic of captivity and slavery as well as the various forms of “non-freedom” in the Early Middle Ages can hardly be defined as some kind of a novelty in the scholarly activities. The latter also cannot be specified as a revealing of the unknown or barely studied peculiarities of the era in question. In spite of this, however, a significant number of newly published studies must be taken into consideration. There are undoubted achievements and examples of profound knowledge of the relationship between captivity and slavery or the nuances that are due to religion, gender, age, social and ethnic background, and skills of those who are taken into captivity. Both the manumission of slaves and the entire variety of opportunities for captives’ release are in the focus (despite some restraining deficits of information in the primary sources). In this regard, the long-awaited second volume of The Cambridge History of Slavery: AD 500 – AD 1420 deserves special attention. A useful review of some old ideas, as well as reconsideration of dubious or incorrect assumptions, along with a number of new concepts and approaches are offered in the chapters of this voluminous collective work. Along with this, however, there are statements that need further clarifications. This text is devoted to such a concept under discussion and its debatable generalization concerning the enslavement, ransom and exchange of captives in the Early Medieval Southeastern Europe.

Yanko Hristov (Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria)


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