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From Dubrovnik (Ragusa) to Florence: Observations on the Recruiting of Domestic Servants in the Fifteenth Century

From Dubrovnik (Ragusa) to Florence: Observations on the Recruiting of Domestic Servants in the Fifteenth Century


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From Dubrovnik (Ragusa) to Florence: Observations on the Recruiting of Domestic Servants in the Fifteenth Century

By Paola Pinelli

Dubrovnik Annals, Vol. 12 (2008)

Abstract: As confirmed by fifteenth-century documentation, Giuliano Marcovaldi, a merchant from Prato established in Ragusa, along with some Florentine merchants, were involved in the trade of slaves, a special segment of the commerce relations between the Italian peninsula, Ragusa and the Balkan hinterland. The persons sold were mostly young women, many of Patarine or Orthodox faith, who were to become domestic servants. They were exported from the Balkans by Ragusan merchants, and sold to Italian traders in exchange for woollen cloth and food stuffs, especially wheat.

Introduction: In the course of his 1970s studies of medieval slave trade from the Balkans within economic relations between the two Adriatic coasts, Charles Verlinden pointed to the lack of systematic studies on this subject by the Slavs. A few years later, historians tended to shift the focus of their attention to this theme, especially Bariπa Krekic, who published some articles on Ragusa as an intermediary market for this type of trade.

In 1988 Sergio Anselmi promoted a book which contained essays on the migration of Slavs and Albanians to the West from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century and, in 1989, the same subject was dealt within a volume with several articles published in Belgrade. These studies are based on the documents found in the archives of Dubrovnik, Venice and other cities on the east coast of Italy.

Actually, as I have attempted to demonstrate earlier, the cities of Tuscany were also involved in the trade which, through Ragusa, connected the Slavic hinterland with the Italian peninsula. Copious fifteenth-century documentation of Giuliano Marcovaldi, a merchant from Prato established in Ragusa, confirms this and, among other things, contains much information which questions the assumption that in Tuscany there are only a few minor traces of the recruiting of domestic servants in the Balkans.


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