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Date: May 04, 2021

Debt and the coercion of labour in the Islamic legal tradition Next Joseph C. Miller Memorial Lecture Series on May 10, 2021: Joseph C. Miller Memorial Lecture Series: Lecture by William G. Clarence-Smith, SOAS University of London.

Next Joseph C. Miller Memorial Lecture Series on May 10, 2021: Joseph C. Miller Memorial Lecture Series: Lecture by William G. Clarence-Smith, SOAS University of London.

Abstract: There was no questioning of the fundamental legitimacy of slavery in the Islamic world up to the 1870s, when abolitionism slowly and timidly began to develop. By contrast, the ulama generally rejected all other types of labour coercion. For most Muslims, the crucial question was whether unredeemed debt could legitimately result in enslavement, on which the ulama ruled in the negative. This religious view of the matter did not always prevail, notably when the statute law of rulers or local customary law ruled otherwise. There were thus cases of enslavement for debt, and even of debt peonage, typically in lands where Islamisation was superficial.

William G. Clarence-Smith is co-director of the Commodities of History project. He is Emeritus Professor of History at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies), University of London, and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. His research explores the history of agriculture, animals, manufacturing, diasporas, slavery and sexuality, with special reference to Islam. Clarence-Smith is known for his research into two fields. One area is the history of economic commodities, the other being the history of religion, slavery and gender norms particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia. Clarence-Smith is the editor of Journal of Global History published by the Cambridge University Press. He is an associate of the Indian Ocean World Centre. He is a member of the London Middle East Institute, the Centre of Iranian Studies, the Centre for Palestine Studies and the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of London.

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