Slavery in Ireland

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Slavery had already existed in Ireland for centuries by the time the Vikings began to establish their coastal settlements, but it was under the Norse-Gael Kingdom of Dublin that it reached its peak.[1] Gaelic raiders kidnapped and enslaved people from across the Irish Sea for two centuries after the Fall of the Western Roman Empire destabilised Roman Britain;[2] their most famous victim was Saint Patrick. The raids were discontinued after the Normans[3] banned it in the early twelfth century, although an internal trade continued in enslaved prisoners of war and debt slaves caused by famine.[4]

When the Vikings established early Scandinavian Dublin in 841, they began a slave market that would come to sell slaves captured both in Ireland and other countries as distant as Spain,[5] as well as sending Irish slaves as far away as Iceland,[4] where Gaels formed 40% of the population,[6] and Anatolia.[7] In 875, Irish slaves in Iceland launched Europe's largest slave rebellion since the end of the Roman Empire[citation needed], when Hjörleifr Hróðmarsson's slaves killed him and fled to Vestmannaeyjar. Almost all recorded slave raids in this period took place in Leinster and southeast Ulster; while there was almost certainly similar activity in the south and west, only one raid from the Hebrides on the Aran Islands is recorded.[8]

Slavery became more widespread in Ireland throughout the 11th century, as Dublin became the biggest slave market in Western Europe.[8][5] Its main sources of supply were the Irish hinterland, Wales and Scotland.[8] The Irish slave trade began to decline after William the Conqueror consolidated control of the English and Welsh coasts around 1080, and was dealt a severe blow when the Kingdom of England, one of its biggest markets, banned slavery [9]in its territory in 1102.[4][8] The continued existence of the trade was used as one justification for the Norman conquest of Ireland after 1169, after which the Hiberno-Normans replaced slavery with feudalism.[4][10]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Holm, P (1986). "The Slave Trade of Dublin, Ninth to Twelfth Centuries". Peritia. 5: 317–345. doi:10.1484/J.Peri.3.139. ISSN 0332-1592. 
  • Wyatt, D (2009). Slaves and Warriors in Medieval Britain and Ireland, 800–1200. The Northern World: North Europe and the Baltic c. 400–1700 AD. Peoples, Economics and Cultures (series vol. 45). Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-17533-4. ISSN 1569-1462. 
  • Wyatt, D (2014). "Slavery, Power and Cultural Identity in the Irish Sea Region, 1066–1171". In Sigurðsson, JV; Bolton, T. Celtic-Norse Relationships in the Irish Sea in the Middle Ages, 800–1200. The Northern World: North Europe and the Baltic c. 400–1700 AD. Peoples, Economics and Cultures (series vol. 65). Leiden: Brill. pp. 97–108. ISBN 978-90-04-25512-8. ISSN 1569-1462.