Like the Romans,
the British and the Anglo-Saxons
had lots of slaves. A slave was a person who was the property
of another person. They were thought of as objects rather than
people and could be bought and sold.
A slave was
called a 'caeth' in Brythonic and a 'theow' or 'thrall' in Old
English. They could be men, women
Most of the
people in a village could be slaves. They probably lived in
small houses or grub huts, several slaves to one room.
to do what their masters (owners) said. Most of them would
have worked very hard.
worked in the fields looking after crops and animals. They
didn't get any wages although more skilled slaves, like
weren't allowed to leave or get a job somewhere
else. If they ran away and were caught, they would be executed.
owners could do what they liked with their slaves. They
were allowed to beat them or even kill them
if they wanted to (King
Alfred later put a stop to this). But in British areas,
slaves could claim compensation (money) if they were treated badly.
and the Saxons both had different grades of slave; and they
were allowed their own possessions, but not weapons.
in the Saxon kingdoms were British and most slaves in the British
kingdoms were Saxon. They were usually the families of
soldiers killed in battle or peasants from raided villages,
like St. Patrick. The English word for the British was 'wealh'
(Welsh). This can mean both foreigner and slave.
in Saxon areas could be Saxon and, in British areas, they
could be British, because the kingdoms were always fighting
each other. Criminals or people in debt could also be made
could be freed in an owner's will or in a temple or church.
This is called 'manumission'. The British wrote manumission
documents in gospel books, like the Lichfield
trade was big in Britain. Bristol (Wessex)
and Corbridge (Northumbria)
became important slavery centres. Many slaves were sold
abroad, particularly in Rouen (France).