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Title: Slavery in early Mesopotamia from Late Uruk until the fall of Babylon in the Longue Durée
Author: Reid, John Nicholas
ISNI:       0000 0004 4365 9112
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This dissertation looks at slavery in early Mesopotamia (ca. 3200-1595 BC) in the longue durée and establishes theoretical foundations for interpreting the data preserved in the extant sources. Rather than attempting to define slavery, the forms the social institution took from proto-history into the historical era of early Mesopotamia are contextualised, while identifying the broader social changes which might explain the non-linear evolution of the practice. After considering the difficulty of defining the term ‘slave’ in relation to early Mesopotamia in general and numerous attempts to approach the problem, this work moves beyond definition, attempting to historicise slavery. To achieve this, slavery in early Mesopotamia is considered in the high points of the record in relation to key diagnostic features. The acquisition of slaves is studied alongside the release of slaves, demonstrating the numerous ways people in early Mesopotamia could be reduced to some form of bondage or slavery, while there remained relatively few means by which a person could experience upward movement out of slavery, opportunities which were reduced further for foreign and houseborn slaves. The following discussion of the economics of slavery seeks to place the question in an historical context of modern scholarship before assessing the motivations, benefits, and risks of owning slaves in early Mesopotamia. After this chapter which looks at slavery from the perspectives of the elite, the subsequent chapter attempts to move beyond the elite bias of the documentation to understand history from the bottom, by studying flight and the related means of coercion. By considering the ways in which runaways were pursued and the risks members of the lower stratum community were willing to take for a change in status, the discussion presents a way forward to understanding slavery in early Mesopotamia. These diagnostic features of slavery reveal a traceable non-linear evolution of slavery in early Mesopotamia.
Supervisor: Dahl, Jacob Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Cuneiform ; Economic and Social History ; slavery ; flight ; social status