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Race and Slavery in the Middle East

Race and Slavery in the Middle East: Histories of Trans-Saharan Africans in Nineteenth-Century Egypt, Sudan, and the Ottoman Mediterranean

Terence Walz
Kenneth M. Cuno
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Race and Slavery in the Middle East
    Book Description:

    In the nineteenth century hundreds of thousands of Africans were forcibly migrated northward to Egypt and other eastern Mediterranean destinations, yet relatively little is known about them. Studies have focused mainly on the mamluk and harem slaves of elite households, who were mostly white, and on abolitionist efforts to end the slave trade, and most have relied heavily on western language sources. In the past forty years new sources have become available, ranging from Egyptian religious and civil court and police records to rediscovered archives and accounts in western archives and libraries. Along with new developments in the study of African slavery these sources provide a perspective on the lives of non-elite trans-Saharan Africans in nineteenth century Egypt and beyond. The nine essays in this volume examine the lives of slaves and freed men and women in Egypt and the region. Contributors: Kenneth M. Cuno, Y. Hakan Erdem, Michael Ferguson, Emad Ahmad Helal Shams al-Din, Liat Kozma, George Michael La Rue, Ahmad A. Sikainga, Eve M. Troutt Powell, and Terence Walz.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-379-6
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Note on Transliteration and Personal and Place Names
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Maps and Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction: The Study of Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Egypt, Sudan and the Ottoman Mediterranean
    (pp. 1-16)
    Terence Walz and Kenneth M. Cuno

    Until recently slavery was not a major area of focus for historians of the modern Middle East. One reason for that is the absence of anything resembling the traumatic American experience of slavery. More than a tenth of the United States’ population is descended from enslaved Africans. Slavery divided the nation and a civil war was fought over it. Post-emancipation racial oppression, including de jure segregation, left a legacy of ‘racial’ issues in politics. The centrality of slavery in U.S. history and of race in American culture drives scholarly research in these subjects in the American field. Although slavery was...

  7. 1 Muhammad Ali’s First Army: The Experiment in Building an Entirely Slave Army
    (pp. 17-42)
    Emad Ahmed Helal

    Military slaves were used by Egypt’s rulers for ten centuries, from Ahmad Ibn Tulun (r. 868–84) to the late nineteenth century. The first slave armies were black, the result of Ibn Tulun having recruited forty thousand Sudanese slaves. In the Ikhshidid state (935–69) slaves formed an important sector too, especially in the age of Kafur al-Ikhshidi (905–68), a Sudanese slave who became the ruler. During the period of the Fatimid Caliphate (969–1171), black slaves continued to be used, especially during the reign of al-Mustansir (1029–94), whose Sudanese slave mother encouraged him to recruit them because...

  8. 2 Sudanese, Habasha, Takarna, and Barabira: Trans-Saharan Africans in Cairo as Shown in the 1848 Census
    (pp. 43-76)
    Terence Walz

    The unpublished 1848 census, the first nationwide household census taken in Egypt in modern times, is a major source of data on the social transformation of Egypt in the nineteenth century.¹ For those interested in slavery, it contains a precious accounting of enslaved and emancipated trans-Saharan Africans in the country’s cities and villages. As such, it offers a remarkable picture of slavery in its final decades, not long before the system was forced to change as a result of international pressure.

    The forty-four registers of the Cairo census that are preserved in the Egyptian National Archives were examined at length...

  9. 3 African Slaves in Nineteenth-Century Rural Egypt: A Preliminary Assessment
    (pp. 77-98)
    Kenneth M. Cuno

    Although the majority of slaves in nineteenth-century Egypt were Africans, historians have given comparatively more attention to the mamluk and harem slaves of the elite, who often were ‘white.’¹ To the extent that African slaves have been discussed the focus has been mainly on those in urban society, most of whom were women who served as domestics or concubines.² This chapter takes up the relatively neglected topic of slaves in the rural society of Egypt. It uses a sample of the census registers of 1847–48 and 1868 from four villages in al-Daqahliyya province, in Lower Egypt, supplemented by provincial...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. 4 “My Ninth Master was a European”: Enslaved Blacks in European Households in Egypt, 1798–1848
    (pp. 99-124)
    George Michael La Rue

    During the nineteenth century, many enslaved Africans lived in households headed by Europeans in Cairo and Alexandria. While detailed information from Egyptian households is scarce, portraits of African slaves are found in travelers’ accounts, consular reports, biographies, and the collected letters of long-time European residents. The most personal of these sources reveal much about Europeans and the African slaves they encountered or owned. It makes sense to look at these writings as part of a broader attempt to understand the lives of enslaved and emancipated Africans in Egypt, while remaining alert to the potential similarities and differences in the slaves’...

  12. 5 Magic, Theft, and Arson: The Life and Death of an Enslaved African Woman in Ottoman İzmit
    (pp. 125-146)
    Y. Hakan Erdem

    Despite a growing body of literature, studies on Ottoman-Middle Eastern slavery are still in a toddling stage and accounts written from the perspective of slaves are few and far between. Thus, one contributor to the debate, Eve Troutt Powell, was justified in every way when she raised the cry “Will That Subaltern Ever Speak?”¹ The dearth of scholarship in that quarter seems to mimic an original lack of slave narratives in Middle Eastern contexts. This is not to say that slave narratives in New World contexts do not present historiographic problems. Powell notes that such narratives “were published under the...

  13. 6 Slavery and Social Life in Nineteenth-Century Turco-Egyptian Khartoum
    (pp. 147-170)
    Ahmad Alawad Sikainga

    Writing in the mid-nineteenth century, James Bayard Taylor, the American traveler and diplomat, described the population of Khartoum, the capital of the Turco-Egyptian regime, as:

    a curious compound of Christian, Turk, and Barbarian. On the same day, I have had a whole sheep set before me, in the house of an Ethiopian Princess, who wore a ring in her nose; taken coffee and sherbet [sic]¹ with the Pasha; and drank tea, prepared in the true English style, in the parlor of a European. When to these remarkable contrasts is added the motley character of its native population, embracing representatives from...

  14. 7 Enslaved and Emancipated Africans on Crete
    (pp. 171-196)
    Michael Ferguson

    Scholars of African slavery in the Ottoman Empire have made significant progress in the past twenty years. According to Ehud Toledano, they have explained “the impact of foreign pressure, the mechanisms of home-grown manumission, the attitudes toward the institution, and the problems of suppression and abolition.”¹ Yet much is still unknown about the socio-cultural history of enslaved Africans in the northern tier of the Ottoman Empire—that is, north of the African shore—and even less about those who were emancipated, since most histories focus on slavery and end at the point of emancipation. Moreover, the few monographs that touch...

  15. 8 Black, Kinless, and Hungry: Manumitted Female Slaves in Khedival Egypt
    (pp. 197-216)
    Liat Kozma

    On a summer day in 1877, Saluma, a Sudanese freed slave, knocked on a stranger’s door in the Palestinian village of Tira in the Ottoman province of Nablus. Saluma had been kidnapped from Cairo about five months earlier. She was smuggled through al-Arish to Tira, along with five other women, to be sold there as slaves. Her kidnappers had sent her to get some bread from a local bakery, and she was now waiting outside a stranger’s house, hoping for a friendly face. The woman who opened the door listened to her story and hastened to inform the local authorities...

  16. 9 Slaves or Siblings? Abdallah al-Nadim’s Dialogues about the Family
    (pp. 217-228)
    Eve M. Troutt Powell

    In the 1890s, when the British occupation of Egypt was well entrenched, the make-up of the family and the structure of households had become explosive issues in the political struggle between British officials, Egyptian nationalists, and other intellectuals. The image of the family had evolved into being a symbol of timeless stability, yet also a target of cultural reform. The ideal of the family had become paradoxically synonymous with religious tradition, cultural morality, modernity, and a teleological sense of progress.¹ For nationalists, reformers, and educators alike in Egypt, the ideals of family values also bore a defensive significance. The traditions...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-252)
  18. Index
    (pp. 253-262)