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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: November 2020

2 - ‘Stuffing the Beaches’


The Northern and Southern Arcs: The Ninth through the Eleventh Centuries

In 905, Bertha, Margravine of Tuscany (c. 863–925) sent her regards to Al-Muktafi, the Abbasid Caliph (r. 902–908) in Baghdad. She sent him ‘50 swords, 50 shields, and 50 lances of the type used by the Franks, 20 garments woven with gold, 20 Slav eunuchs, 20 beautiful and elegant Slav slave girls,’ as well as birds of prey, silks, and other impressive gifts. If the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries witnessed contraction, regionalization, and abatement in long-distance trade networks, then the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries witnessed an expansion and intensification of long-distance trade; the resultant intensification of long-distance trafficking is the focus of this section. Michael McCormick has found patterns of communication and trade routes that broadly follow a Northern Arc and a Southern Arc in the ninth century. I have found similar patterns in human trafficking activity between the ninth and eleventh centuries, which is not surprising because traffickers followed trade routes wherever possible. In this chapter, therefore, I have borrowed McCormick's model of a Northern and a Southern Arc and adapted it to the study of human trafficking patterns. I do not mean to suggest that local and regional trafficking were absent. Regional networks were the links in the chains of long-distance trade, the building blocks of the long-distance trafficking networks that we will examine, and local trafficking was certainly common, as the ninth-century deeds explored in the Introduction make clear.

Although the period between the ninth and the eleventh centuries is the subject of this chapter, we must bear in mind that trade among the regions of the Latin West, the Muslim world, and Byzantium already had showed signs of intensifying from the latter half of the eighth century. However, it was in the ninth century that new overland, fluvial, and marine trade routes became firmly established and interlinked. These trends have been recognized by scholars such as Alice Rio, who argues that the peak of medieval slave-trading systems came during the ninth and tenth centuries, rather than during the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries.

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