Valerie Hansen has a new book just out:
THE YEAR 1000: When Explorers Connected the World — and Globalization Began. New York: Scribner, 2020.
A NYT review of Hansen's landmark volume is copied below, but let's first look at some interesting language notes concerning the background of the word for "slave" (Chapter 4 is on "European Slaves"; the quotations here are from pp. 85-86).
The demand for slaves [in addition to that for furs] was also high, especially in the two biggest cities in Europe and the Middle East at the time–Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine empire, and Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid caliphate, in present-day Iraq. The residents of Constantinople and Baghdad used their wealth to purchase slaves, almost always people captured in raids on neighboring societies.
In the early 900s, a Muslim observer named Ibn Rusta noted that the Rus "treat their slaves well and dress them beautifully, because for them they are an article of trade. Adam of Bremen commented on the gold stored on the island of Zealand in Denmark, which Scandinavian pirates had accumulated from trading slaves. The Vikings, Adam said, "have no faith in one another, and as soon as one of them catches another, he mercilessly sells him into slavery." So many slaves came from Eastern Europe that the meaning of the Greek word for "Slav" (sklabos) shifted sometime in the 1000s from its original meaning, "Slav," to take on the broader meaning of "slave," whether Slavic or another origin.
The earliest written description of the Rus comes from Ibn Khurradadhbih (820-911), a Persian official who identified the Rus as one of the fair-haired peoples living in the lands of the Saqaliba, the Arabic catchall term for the peoples from Northern and Eastern Europe. ("Saqaliba" is also the origin of one of the many words for "slave" in Arabic.) "They carry beaver hides, black fox pelts, and swords from the farthest reaches of the Saqaliba to the Sea of Rum," or the Black Sea. Beaver and fox pelts commanded the highest prices because of the density of their fur.
Slavery was widespread across Eurasia. In a recent post, Diana Shuheng Zhang aptly rendered Chinese "núzi 奴子" as "young Turk", see "Captivating translation: young Turk with flowing charm" (3/26/20). I should have provided a note to explain that "núzi 奴子" literally meant "servant; slave" in medieval Sinitic. It was my old friend, Elling Eide (1935-2012), the Li Po (701-762; evidently born in Central Asia and part Turk himself) specialist, who never tired of telling me that the word was often used to refer to Turks.
When I first visited my relatives in the Austrian Alps in the late 60s, I soon grew fond of the word "ciao", but didn't quite know what it meant because it was used in situations where In English I would have said both "hi" and "bye". Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I was essentially saying to the person to whom I was speaking that I was their humble servant / slave.
Borrowed from Italian ciao ("hello, goodbye"), from Venetian ciao ("hello, goodbye, your (humble) servant"), from Venetian s-ciao / s-ciavo ("servant, slave"), from Medieval Latin sclavus ("Slav, slave"), related also to Italian schiavo, English Slav, slave and Old Venetian S-ciavón ("Slav"), from Latin Sclavonia ("Slavonia"). Not related to Vietnamese chào ("hello, goodbye").
Word History: The Italian salutation ciao, which is now popular in many parts of the world outside Italy, originated in the dialects of northern Italy. In the dialect of Venice, ciau literally means "servant, slave," and is also used as a casual greeting, "I am your servant." Dialectal ciau corresponds to standard Italian schiavo, "slave," and both words come from Medieval Latin sclāvus. Declaring yourself someone's slave might seem like an extravagant gesture today, but expressions such as Your obedient servant or Your servant, madam were once commonplace in English. Similarly, the Classical Latin word servus meaning "slave" is still used as an informal greeting in southern Germany and in Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, and other parts of central Europe that were formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the opposite end of the world, in Southeast and East Asia, one even finds words that originally meant "slave" or "your slave" but have developed into pronouns of the first person through their use in showing respect and humility. In Japanese, for example, the word boku is used to mean "I, me," especially by boys and young men, and it comes from a Middle Chinese word meaning "slave" or "servant" and now pronounced pú in Mandarin.
Source: American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition
"Slavs and slaves" (1/17/19)
"Cool slave / guy / tofu / whatever" (5/12/18)
"The bearded barbarian" (8/26/15) — especially this comment
"Misogyny as reflected in Chinese characters" (12/25/15)
The BBC History Magazine HistoryExtra podcast just produced an episode with the title of "Medieval Globetrotters" in which Valerie Hansen is interviewed about her new book. Here is the link.
The NYT Editors' Choice for April 14, 2020:
"12 New Books We Recommend This Week"
See the 5th one, by the distinguished Yale historian, Valerie Hansen:
THE YEAR 1000: When Explorers Connected the World — and Globalization Began, by Valerie Hansen. (Scribner, $30.) Today we tend to believe that globalization began in the late 1400s, but Hansen, a history professor at Yale, shows that global connections extended back to the early 1000s and that in many ways life then resembled life today. "Hansen draws upon nearly 30 years of research to make her case. She has examined contemporary records, travelogues, art, artifacts and more, and consulted with archaeologists, Arabic scholars and other experts around the world to paint the fullest cross-cultural picture possible," Christiane Bird writes in her review. The book, she concludes, is a "highly impressive, deeply researched, lively and imaginative work."
Here's the complete review:
"When Globalization Really Began" (accompanied by the famous painting, "Leif Erikson* Discovers America," by Hans Dahl [1849-1937].)
*Leif Erikson, Leiv Eiriksson or Leif Ericson (ca. 970-ca. 1020).
By Christiane Bird
THE YEAR 1000
When Explorers Connected the World — and Globalization Began
By Valerie Hansen
In the year 1000, the world was on the move. Traders and pilgrims were sailing across the Indian Ocean, to and from East Africa, Arabia, India and China. Slaves were being marched from Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa to Constantinople, Baghdad and Cairo. The Maya of the Yucatán Peninsula were traveling as far north as the Mississippi River Valley and as far south as Colombia. And then, in the most significant journey of the era, the Vikings sailed to Canada, connecting these trade routes and creating a round-the-world loop. Globalization, Valerie Hansen argues in her fascinating new book, "The Year 1000," had begun.
Today, we in the West tend to believe that it wasn't until the late 1400s and 1500s, when Europeans sailed to the Americas and around the Cape of Good Hope, that the world became interconnected, and that it wasn't until the 20th century that globalization developed. But, as Hansen shows, the Europeans were only using existing trade routes, and by the time they ventured forth, globalization, with all its pluses and minuses — cultural exchange and conflict, winners and losers, the growth of technology and the loss of tradition — was already well underway. One of the book's surprises is its demonstration of how much life in the early 1000s resembled that in the 21st century. In those years, a citizen living in Quanzhou, China, could buy sandalwood tables from Java, ivory ornaments from Africa and amber vials from the Baltic region; attend Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist religious services; and, if well educated, read a Japanese novel or the latest writings of Islamic scholars.
The Stanley Woodward professor of history at Yale University, where she teaches Chinese and world history, Hansen draws upon nearly 30 years of research to make her case. She has examined contemporary records, travelogues, art, artifacts and more, and consulted with archaeologists, Arabic scholars and other experts around the world to paint the fullest cross-cultural picture possible.
Playing a strikingly central role in the early years of globalization was religion. Time and time again, Hansen shows, leaders converted their peoples to the religion of a more powerful neighbor in the hopes of gaining commercial and political advantages. These conversions had little to do with belief and everything to do with pragmatism, and led to the demise of some smaller religions (like Manichaeism in Persia) and the explosive growth of others, in ways that still resonate today. Hansen writes, "We live in a world shaped by the interactions of the world in the year 1000: 92 percent of today's believers subscribe to one of the four religions that gained traction then."
The book is filled with legendary characters. There's Freydis, a feisty Viking woman who, upon finding herself surrounded by hostile Amerindians, pulled out her breast and "slapped" it with her sword, scaring her would-be attackers off. And there's Harald Bluetooth, the Danish king who, though raised non-Christian, converted his kingdom to Christianity in order to unite it; Bluetooth technology, which brings computers and mobile phones together in a similar manner, is named after him.
At times, Hansen's narrative bogs down in mind-numbing descriptions of dynasties and tribes. Occasionally, too, her use of the professorial "we," in phrases like "as we'll see in the next chapter," is irksome, drawing the reader out of the world she has created and into the lecture hall. But these are minor disturbances in an otherwise highly impressive, deeply researched, lively and imaginative work.
[Thanks to Tony DeBlasi and John Mullan]