This study explores the relationship between documentary-legal prescriptions of slavery and actual practice in late medieval Ethiopia. It does so in light of a newly discovered edict against the enslavement of freeborn Christians and the commercial sale of Christians to non-Christian owners, issued in 1548 by King Gälawdéwos. It demonstrates that this edict emerged from a dramatic and violent encounter between the neighboring Sultanate of Adal, which was supported by Muslim powers, and the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia, which had the support of expanding European powers in the region. The edict was therefore issued to reaffirm and clarify the principles and doctrines of preexisting legislation codified in the Fetha Nägäst (Law of Kings). The study includes a full transcript and translation of the edict and also analyzes its place within the broader framework of Ethiopia’s encounter with other legal traditions, including older Romano-Byzantine and Coptic-Islamic systems. This study further argues that the legal principles enshrined in the Fetha Nägäst were strengthened by the edict and were more widely known than previous scholarship has been able to establish, and that the edict did inspire actual legal practices that affected daily life in sixteenth-century Ethiopia.
Tegegne, Habtamu M.
"The Edict of King Gälawdéwos Against the Illegal Slave Trade in Christians: Ethiopia, 1548 -- FEATURED SOURCE,"
The Medieval Globe: Vol. 2
, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/tmg/vol2/iss2/5