Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

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

£ 23.99

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
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
    Read more

    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

    'This book represents an exceptionally well-researched and convincingly-argued study … [A] major contribution to scholarship on Central Asian history, Islamic history, Russian imperial history, and, more generally, the history of slavery.' Scott C. Levi, Journal of Islamic Studies

    'Eden manages to depict a 'history from below' that maintains slaves at the forefront of their story. Here, by showcasing slaves' agency and social mobility, albeit limited and subject to chance, Eden demonstrates that slaves were essential to the Central Asian social fabric and that they achieved their own emancipation … Eden's monograph successfully fills the gap in the Central Asian and global histories of slavery and the broader Eurasian history.' Merjen Atayeva, Iranian Studies

    'Unfree labor powered pastoral economies and agricultural societies in eighteenth - and nineteenth-century Central Asia. Historians have noted the presence of slaves in the region, but until now we have lacked a dedicated study on the trade's scale and importance. In Slavery and Empire in Central Asia, Jeff Eden reveals that likely hundreds of thousands, primarily Iranian slaves, labored in Central Asia's fields, homes, and workshops … [E]xcellent and novel insights into how slavery worked in Central Asia … Slave agency is dealt with in an effective and nuanced manner … The book is a welcome addition to the still-meager historiography on Central Asia. It fills many gaps on the extent and working of slavery in the region.' Jeff Sahadeo, American Historical Review

    'Most historians are not aware that tens of thousands of Persians were enslaved in the nineteenth century by Turkic-speaking Muslims in Central Asia. Jeff Eden brilliantly examines this slave trade using sources in Russian, Persian and many other languages. Economic networks that have not previously been studied are revealed in this highly original study of the slave trade. The book is an altogether bravura performance.' Roy Mottahedeh, Harvard University

    'Jeff Eden's path breaking book offers a brilliant refutation of the self-proclaimed abolitionist intentions behind the Russian expansionist drive into the enslaving principalities of Muslim Central Asia. Drawing on a wide range of hitherto untapped sources, this work provides fascinating insights into the lives of agricultural and other slaves and convincingly shows how their agency - demonstrated in the Khiva revolt of 1873 - brought enslavement in to an end.' Ehud R. Toledano, Tel Aviv University

    'Slavery and Empire in Central Asia dispels a multitude of myths and stereotypes about slavery in Central Asia, partly through the meticulous reading of Russian archives, partly through Jeff Eden's innovative use of documents and narratives in Persian and Chaghatai. He shows that almost everything we thought we knew about Central Asian slavery is untrue … Through the study of slavery Eden is also able to explore trade, social norms and hierarchies and the relations between nomadic and sedentary populations in a crucial period of Central Asia's under-studied history.' Alexander Morrison, University of Oxford

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108456111
    • length: 240 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.35kg
    • 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).

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.