A 'Grammar of Asymmetrical Dependency' for early scandinavia (to c. 1350)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this article I address the question of how to identify slaves in medieval Scandinavian society.1The problem for us working on early medieval Scandinavia is the scar-city of written sources which could help us to reconstruct the social fabric. We know that during this period slavery is in decline and then disappears in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; a terminus post quem seems to be 1335, when we have a royal decree in Sweden abolishing slavery,2while the other Scandinavian countries saw the abolition taking place even earlier. Regarding this written evidence, we have the runic inscriptions from the Viking Age, which–unsurprisingly–have very little (virtually nothing) to say about the slavery we know existed, and then we have some documents in Latin from the thirteenth century, where members of the south Scandinavian nobility free their slaves in manumission letters. Instead, we have to rely on the earliest (provincial) laws and the Old Norse saga literature, which is problematic from a source-critical point of view.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNaming, Defining, Phrasing Strong Asymmetrical Dependencies
Subtitle of host publicationA Textual Approach
Publisherde Gruyter
Number of pages42
ISBN (Electronic)9783111210544
ISBN (Print)9783111200705
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2023


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