Date of Award

Summer 1987

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

J. Hamilton

Committee Member

Patrick Rollins

Committee Member

Anne B. Harris

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H47H38


This study examines the institution of slavery in the customary legal codes of seven Germanic tribes: the Burgundians, Lombards, Franks, Anglo-Saxons, Alamanni, Bavarians, and Visigoths. It describes the status of slaves within each society and assesses various factors contributing to both the recrudescence of slavery throughout the period of the invasions and its subsequent demise during the ninth and tenth centuries. The research is based primarily on the titles within the Germanic codes themselves, chronicles, contemporary Roman historical writing, and Roman legislation.

An important legal transformation made evident throughout the Germanic codes testifies to the replacement of complete subjection by simple dependence among the servile class of society. Slavery, still viewing the slave as property rather than as a person in the fourth century, was barely distinguishable from serfdom by the end of the eighth. This thesis investigates the transformation of the servile class and evaluates the social, economic, political, and religious factors which make the change comprehensible.


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