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Slavery and Empire in Central Asia


Part of Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization

  • Author: Jeff Eden, Cornell University, New York
  • Date Published: March 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108456111

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About the Authors
  • The Central Asian slave trade swept hundreds of thousands of Iranians, Russians, and others into slavery during the eighteenth–nineteenth centuries. Drawing on eyewitness accounts, autobiographies, and newly-uncovered interviews with slaves, this book offers an unprecedented window into slaves' lives and a penetrating examination of human trafficking. Slavery strained Central Asia's relations with Russia, England, and Iran, and would serve as a major justification for the Russian conquest of this region in the 1860s–70s. Challenging the consensus that the Russian Empire abolished slavery with these conquests, Eden uses these documents to reveal that it was the slaves themselves who brought about their own emancipation by fomenting the largest slave uprising in the region's history.

    • Challenges the consensus that it was the Russian Empire that liberated Central Asia's slaves and offers a compelling new theory
    • Sheds new light on slaves' lives and human trafficking in Central Asia on the eve of the Russian conquests
    • Draws extensively on slaves' own testimonies, including autobiographies and interviews
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Eden provides readers with a fascinating study of the slave trade in Central Asia, challenging the view that imperial Russia brought that pre-Islamic tradition to an end … Readers will be especially interested in the material drawn from such rare sources as transcripts of interviews with former slaves compiled by Russian border officials, legal documents, and eyewitness travel reports. One such source is the firsthand account of the Iranian Mīrzā Maḥmūd Taqī Āshtiyānī, who spent ten years as a slave among Turkmen tribes. This account provides a rare treat for readers - a slave's own perspective. The book ends by describing a little-known slave rebellion in Central Asia in 1873 that nicely underscores Eden's arguments about local slave agency … This book fills a large gap in the history of Central Asia and global slavery. Highly Recommended.' Choice

    'Undoubtedly, Jeff Eden's monograph is a ground-breaking piece of scrupulous and very timely research … The pivotal merit of the research is the personal accounts of slaves, providing the reader with first-hand information on their intimate experiences in surviving and even making careers of their own within the ruthless reality of ultimate unfreedom. This is also complemented by the breathtaking stories of the Russian military's interaction with native informants and agents … [A] brilliant study, which eloquently presents very convincing evidence … [G]ranting the right to speak for themselves to those who have always been left voiceless in the historiography on the region.' Denis V. Volkov, The English Historical Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108456111
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The setting: Russia, Iran, and the slaves of the Khanates
    2. Beyond the bazaars: geographies of the slave trade in Central Asia
    3. From despair to liberation: Mῑrzā Maḥmūd Taqῑ Āshtiyānῑ's ten years of slavery
    4. The slaves' world: jobs, roles and families
    5. From slaves to serfs: manumission along the Kazakh frontier
    6. The Khan as Russian agent: native informants and abolition
    7. The conquest of Khiva and the myth of Russian abolitionism in Central Asia.

  • Author

    Jeff Eden, Cornell University, New York
    Jeff Eden is a Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Cornell University. He is the author of The Life of Muhammad Sharif (2015) and co-editor of Beyond Modernism: Rethinking Islam in Russia, Central Asia and Western China (19th-20th Centuries) (2016).

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