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UNIT 14: Land and Labor Relationships

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VIDEO SEGMENT: Slavery and Serfdom: From the Ancient World to Tsarist Russia

This segment examines compulsory labor systems in Europe from the Roman Empire until the 1600s. In the Roman Empire, slaves were used extensively to build roads and work the estates of wealthy landowners. Most Roman slaves were prisoners of war, although some were sold as children or adults in order to pay off debts.

Centuries later, compulsory labor still characterized many parts of Western and Eastern Europe in the form of serfdom. Serfdom — a system in which laborers are permanently bound to the land — developed in many parts of Europe where the demand for labor was at a premium.

This phenomenon was clearly evident in Tsarist Russia. By 1500, Russian tsars had dramatically expanded the size of the state. As a result, Russian landowners came to control huge estates — all of which needed a large labor force. At first, peasants chose the estates where they wished to work. However, in the sixteenth century landowners anxious to secure a permanent labor force prevailed upon the tsar to limit freedom of movement among the peasantry. By the end of the seventeenth century, Russian serfdom resembled slavery: Serfs could be bought, sold, and even willed to descendants. I

n the same period, the expanding Russian empire came into conflict with invading Tartars in the south and Cossacks in the west. These invaders captured Russians and shipped them across the Black Sea to be sold as slaves, thus linking Eastern Europe with far distant port cities in Asia and the Middle East.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Anonymous, ROMAN SLAVE MARKET (n.d.). Courtesy of Northwind Picture Archives.

Anonymous, MONGOLS ATTACKING IN 1241 TARTARS BEFORE LIEGNITZ AGAINST THE GRAND DUKE HEINRICH II OF SCHLESIEN. MINIATURE PAINTING (1353). Image donated by Corbis - Bettmann.


Anonymous, RUSSIAN EXILE PARTY ON A MUDDY ROAD NEAR TIUMEN, SIBERIA (n.d.). Courtesy of Northwind Picture Archives.

Jan Brueghel the Elder, PEASANTS (1675). Courtesy of WorldArt Kiosk/Kathleen Cohen.



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