medievalpoc

In 1306 an Ethiopian delegation came to Europe to seek an alliance with the “King of the Spains” against the Moslems. King Anfós IV of Aragon considered arranging a double marriage with the Negus of Ethiopia in 1428. And the Portuguese sent Pedro de Corvilhao to Ethiopia in 1487 on a similar mission.

Meanwhile the actual living experience of blacks in Europe appeared to be marked by smooth integration into European society, with the role of lower-class blacks determined very much by that of their masters or employers. The 140,000 slaves imported into Europe from Africa between 1450 and 1505 were a welcome new labor force in the wake of the Bubonic Plague.

On the whole, the blacks in Christian Iberia were not limited to servile roles; but they were also not influential as a group. The new slave population in Portugal worked in agriculture and fishing. Free blacks living in Loulé and Lagos in the southern edge of Portugal owned houses and worked as day laborers, midwives, bakers, and servants. Most were domestic servants, laborers (including those on ships and river craft), and petty tradesmen.

Some free blacks, especially women, became innkeepers. Blacks in Spain served as stevedores, factory workers, farm laborers, footmen, coachmen, and butlers. Male and female domestics apparently lived well compared to other lower-class people. Slaves could work in all the crafts, but could not join the guilds.

A few Africans active in the Americas during the early Iberian expansion were among returnees to Portugal and Spain from America and Africa from the 16th to the 18th centuries. These included free mulatto students, clerics, free and slave household servants, sailors, and some who attained gentlemen’s status. The use of many black women slaves as domestics and concubines led to mulatto offspring who received favored treatment, and in some instances, attained middle-class and even aristocratic status.

Problems in Studying the Role of Blacks in Europe by Allison Blakeley via Historians.org, American Historical Association (via medievalpoc)