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Domestic slavery in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century northern Sudan

Sharkey, Heather Jane (1992) Domestic slavery in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century northern Sudan. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This study concentrates on the experience of domestic slaves-men, women, and children who were affiliated to an owner's household-in the nineteenth-and early twentieth-century northern Sudan. Whereas most studies on Sudanese slavery show concern for the slave trade, the anti- slavery movement, or the abolition effort, this study instead examines the slaves themselves, and how they lived, worked, and functioned within their society. A few key themes surface throughout this thesis. One relates to the rapid pace of change, both political and social, which occurred in the northern Sudan in the period under study and had a profound effect on slavery. In the course of a single century, slave-owning changed from a preserve of the elite to a commodity for the free majority, before coming under the onslaught of abolition. Another recurring theme pertains to the tremendous diversity within the slave experience-in terms of occupation, treatment, outlook, and so forth. Finally, the study also grapples with the question of slavery's relative benevolence in the Sudan, while discussing opportunities for the eventual assimilation and social integration of the servile elements. A gaping hole exists in the historical record: namely, the absence of a large body of materials revealing the slave's own perspective. Thus the selfsame travellers' accounts and administrative records from which historians have shaped their narratives on trading, raiding, and abolition inform this study. Undeterred, this thesis launches an indirect attack on the subject. By piecing together observations made by witnesses to the slavery scene, and by filling in the gaps with carefully-considered hypotheses, a clearer and more colourful portrait emerges of the slave experience.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1992
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Nov 2012 10:57

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