Legal And Socio-Economic Status of Freed Slaves in Cyprus (1839-1876)
Keywords: Cyprus, slave, female slave, emancipation, sheria records, heritage registrations
Theoretically, black slaves lived at the lowest social stratum in Cyprus society during the Tanzimat reform period as well. It was declared that everybody would be counted as equal regardless of his or her religion, sect and ethnicity but they were still slaves. However, the essential practices of social life were so humane to make this theoretical categorization invisible. The social relationship between slaves and free people was beyond the limits of slavery; this relationship was established within the framework of equality. Some slaves had been emancipated beforehand. These slaves took place in social, economic and legal life. They were accepted by free people. They were not isolated because of their legal status. The emancipation of slaves did not bring radical changes in Ottoman-Cyprus people, where traditional tolerance had already been internalized. The emancipation was recorded as a symbolic legal process for Ottoman slaves who lived this historically although it meant to be personal freedom from point of view of the status of slavery. The emancipated slaves got married, possessed property and real estate, they left their inheritance to their family members, they owed debt and had account receivable, they acted as witnesses in courts and they traded; they were accepted socially and they had social esteem. The aim of this study is to determine how and to what degree the slaves, who were emancipated due to various reasons in Cyprus between 1839-1876, were involved in social live and adopted by the Cypriot community. This subject will be studied based on Cyprus Sheria records.