Arab slave trade

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19th-century engraving depicting an Arab slave-trading caravan transporting black African slaves across the Sahara.

The Arab slave trade is the intersection of slavery and trade surrounding the Arab world and Indian Ocean, mainly in Western and Central Asia, Northern and Eastern Africa, India, and Europe. This trade occurred chiefly between the medieval era and the early 20th century, through slave markets in these areas, with the slaves captured mostly from Africa's interior,[3] Southern and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.


  • In time, the multiracial character of slavery in the Arab world virtually ceased to exist and became almost exclusively black. In this respect, it differed little from slavery in the New World. ... As long as slavery maintained a multiracial cast, Arab and Turkish slave owner favored white slaves over blacks in so far as work assignments and what might be called career prospects were concerned. White slave girls were preferred as concubines over black girls; and among the latter, the fairer-complexioned Abyssinians were shown partiality over their darker-skinned African sisters.
    • Gordon, M. (1998). Slavery in the Arab World. Lanham: New Amsterdam Books. page 98 ff
  • It has long been considered a mark of ethnocentric ignorance to equate servitude in Islamic societies with the brutal racial slavery that seemed to curse the New World with unending guilt. Ironically, the very “orientalism” that enabled nineteenth-century Europeans to project their own fears and longings upon an unchanging, exotic, and antipodal “East” also led many anti-Western Westerners to romanticize or defend black slavery in the Islamic world. In 1887, for example, the Dutch orientalist C. Snouck Hurgronje ridiculed the “fantasies” that propelled what he concluded to be Britain’s wholly inappropriate efforts to stop the slave trade from Africa to the Middle East.
    • About black slavery in the Islamic world. Slaves in Islam, David Brion Davis, 1990, in New York Review of Books. [1]

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