#028 – Slavery and servitude in the Ottoman Mediterranean

with M’hamed Oualdi & Hayri Gökşin Özkoray



Joseph taken out of the well by Madianite merchants before getting sold into slavery.  Ḳalender Paşa (compilator), Fālnāme, Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi Kütüphanesi [TSMK], Hazine, ms. n° 1703 (detail).

The Ottoman Mediterranean represented a space in which slave trade flourished. This phenomenon developed from pre-existing practices toward innovations brought about by a growing connectivity with other world regions and by a changing policy of territorial expansion. In this episode, we discuss the ambiguity between slavery and servitude in the case of the Mamluks of the Tunisian Beylik (18th-19th century). Moreover, we explore the complexity of economic processes, legal interpretations, and geographic routes which impacted the evolution of slave trade from the 16th century until abolition. Lastly, we reflect on chances and problems related to retracing the self and the narratives of those directly involved in the slave trade before and after manumission.


M’hamed Oualdi is an assistant professor at Princeton University (Near Eastern Studies department and History department). He is a historian of Early Modern and Modern North Africa, with a focus on slavery n Ottoman Tunisia and the shift from Ottoman rule to a French colonial domination in North African societies.  His current project deals with slave testimonies in 19th-century North Africa, when European and Ottoman states implemented the abolition of slavery around the Mediterranean.




Hayri Gökşin Özkoray is teaching assistant (ATER) at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and associated member of the Center for Turkish, Ottoman, Balkan and Centraol Asian Studies He has received a Ph.D in History from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris).  Hayri Gökşin has worked on Ottoman captivity narratives in the early-modern Mediterranean and slavery in the Ottoman Empire. He pursues his research endeavours on Ottoman labour history and also is a fan of improvised and creative music.



To cite this episode: Oualdi, M’Hamed; Özkoray, Hayri Gökşin; Guidi, Andreas (2018): Slavery and servitude in the Ottoman Mediterranean. The Southeast Passage #028, 14.05.2018, http://thesoutheastpassage.com/podcast/oualdi-ozkoray-slavery-servitude-ottoman-mediterranean


  1. “Chekhlaâni Ya Farch Ennoum”, performed by Falida Khetmi, 1930s recording, BNF Gallica  
  2. “Cheghel Hssine: Malouf”, performed by Ahmed Ellouz, 1930s recording, BNF Gallica 

Further reading:

Ayalon, David: The Mamluk military society. London: Variorum Reprints, 1979.

Brunschvig, Robert: « ʿAbd », Encyclopedia of Islam (second edition). Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960, vol. I, p. 25-41.

D’Ohsson, Mouradgea: Tableau général de l’Empire ottoman, divisé en deux parties, dont l’une comprend la législation mahométane ; l’autre, l’histoire de l’Empire ottoman [1788-1824]. Istanbul: Les Éditions Isis, 2001, 7 vols.

El Hamel, Chouki: Black Marocco: A history of slavery, race and Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Erdem, Y. Hakan: Slavery in the Ottoman Empire and its Demise, 1800-1909. London-New York: Macmillan Press, 1996.

Fynn-Paul, Jeffrey, « Empire, Monotheism and Slavery in the Greater Mediterranean Region from Antiquity to the Early Modern Era », Past and Present CCV, 2009, p. 3-40.

İnalcik, Halil: « Ghulām, IV. Empire ottoman », Encyclopedia of Islam (second edition). Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1965, vol. II, p. 1111-1117.

Ismard, Paulin: La Démocratie contre les experts: Les esclaves publics en Grèce ancienne. Paris: Seuil, 2015.

Klein, Martin A.: Slavery and Colonial Rule in French West Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Kunt, İ. Metin: « Ethnic-Regional (Cins) Solidarity in the Seventeenth-Century Ottoman Establishment », International Journal of Middle East Studies V/3, 1974, p. 233-239.

Kunt, İ. Metin: « Kulların Kulları », Boğaziçi Üniversitesi Dergisi. Hümaniter Bilimler – Humanities III, 1975, p. 27-42.

Kunt, İ. Metin: The Sultan’s Servants. The Transformation of Ottoman Provincial Government, 1550-1650, New York, Columbia University Press, 1983 (The Modern Middle East Series 14).

Oualdi, M’hamed: Esclaves et maîtres. Les mamelouks des beys de Tunis du XVIIe siècle aux années 1880, Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne, 2011.

Oualdi, M’hamed: « Mamluks in Ottoman Tunisia: A Category Connecting State and Social Forces », International Journal of Middle East Studies 48/3, 2016, p. 473-490.

Oualdi, M’hamed: “Slave to Modernity? General Ḥusayn’s journey from Tunis to Tuscany (1830s-1880s).” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 60-1-2 (2017): 50-82.

Özkoray, Hayri Gökşin: « Une culture de la résistance ? Stratégies et moyens d’émancipation des esclaves dans l’Empire ottoman au XVIe siècle », in Hanss, Stefan and Schiel, Juliane (eds.), Mediterranean Slavery Revisited (500–1800) – Neue Perspektiven auf mediterrane Sklaverei (500–1800), Zurich, Chronos Verlag, 2014, p. 403-418.

Özkoray, Hayri Gökşin: « La géographie du commerce des esclaves dans l’Empire ottoman et l’implication des marchands d’Europe occidentale ». Rives méditerranéennes LIII : L’économie de l’esclavage en Méditerranée médiévale et moderne (Armenteros Martinez, Iván and Ourfelli, Mohamed, eds.), 2016, p. 103-121.

Özkoray, Hayri Gökşin:  L’esclavage dans l’Empire ottoman (XVIe-XVIIe siècle). Fondements juridiques, réalités socio-économiques, représentation. Ph.D. Thesis. Paris: EPHE, 2018.

Rinehart, Nicholas T.: « The Man That Was a Thing: Reconsidering Human Commodification in Slavery », Journal of Social History L/1, 2016, p. 28-50.

Sahillioğlu, Halil:  « Slaves in the social and economic life of Bursa in the late 15th and early 16th centuries », Turcica XVII, 1985, p. 43-112.

Toledano, Ehud R.: The Ottoman Slave Trade and its Suppression: 1840-1890, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1982.

Toledano, Ehud R.: « Late Ottoman Concepts of Slavery (1830s-1880s) », Poetics Today XIV/3, 1993, p. 477-506.

Toledano, Ehud R.: Slavery and Abolition in the Ottoman Middle East, Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1997.

Troutt Powell, Eve M., Tell This in My Memory. Stories of Enslavement from Egypt, Sudan and the Ottoman Empire, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2012.

Zilfi, Madeline C., Women and Slavery in the Late Ottoman Empire. The Design of Difference, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Muhammad al-Sādiq Bāshā Bey of Tunis and some of his mamluks (1860). Ksar al-Sa’id Museum, Tunis 

War captives brought before the tent of a pasha (ca. 1618-1622). Miniature attributed to Naḳşī. Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi Kütüphanesi (Istanbul), Hazine, ms. n° 889

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