As if Silent and Absent: Bonds of Enslavement in the Islamic Middle East

Publication Year



Ehud R. Toledano, Ph.D. 1979

This groundbreaking book reconceptualizes slavery through the voices of enslaved persons themselves, voices that have remained silent in the narratives of conventional history. Focusing in particular on the Islamic Middle East from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, Ehud R. Toledano examines how bonded persons experienced enslavement in Ottoman societies. He draws on court records and a variety of other unexamined primary sources to uncover important new information about the Africans and Circassians who were forcibly removed from their own societies and transplanted to Middle East cultures that were alien to them. Toledano also considers the experiences of these enslaved people within the context of the global history of slavery.
The book looks at the bonds of slavery from an original perspective, moving away from the traditional master/slave domination paradigm toward the point of view of the enslaved and their responses to their plight. With keen and original insights, Toledano suggests new ways of thinking about enslavement.

Table of Contents


Note on Transliteration and Terminology

Introduction: Between Now and Then—The Pain Lingers On

Chapter 1. Understanding Enslavement as a Human Bond

Chapter 2. Leaving a Violated Bond

Chapter 3. Turning to the “Patron State” for Redress

Chapter 4. Opting for Crime in Order to Survive

Chapter 5. Taming the Unknown with the Familiar

Concluding Remarks




“Toledano redefines the field of slavery studies, developing a genuinely historical perspective from the voices of the slaves themselves.”—Joseph Miller, University of Virginia

“A significant addition to the literature not only dealing with slavery but also with Ottoman history and with listening to the voices of nonelite people in world history. Toledano's insights can benefit specialists and nonspecialists alike.”—John O. Voll, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

Yale University Press
New Haven and London
Cloth: 9780300114614; paper: 9780300126181