Nigra Sum Sed Formosa: Black Slaves and Exotica in the Court of a Fourteenth-Century Aragonese Queen

Nigra Sum Sed Formosa: Black Slaves and Exotica in the Court of a Fourteenth-Century Aragonese Queen Nigra Sum Sed Formosa : Black Slaves and Exotica in the Court of a Fourteenth-Century Aragonese Queen 1 Núria Silleras-Fernández University of California-Santa Cruz Abstract African slaves of Europeans are most commonly associated with images of exploitation as brute labor or domestic servants, as marginalized and discriminated against on the basis of their skin color, and perceived of as of inherently lower status. An examination of the role of black slaves in the royal households of the Crown of Aragon in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, however, reveals that African captives were sometimes given a privileged position at court. African slaves were esteemed as ornamental fixtures and, as such, com- prised yet another element of the exotica with which members of the aristocratic elite sur- rounded themselves in order to convey a sense of wealth and power. Although this may represent yet another dimension of the objectification of these slaves, nevertheless, it reflects the fact that, prior to the age of colonization and mass-enslavement, Africans could be valued rather than disdained for their appearance. Keywords Queens-Spain–History; Queenship; Slavery– History; Spain–History; Exotic Animals– History; Crown of Aragon (Spain)–History. 1 Th is article is a revised version of http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Medieval Encounters Brill

Nigra Sum Sed Formosa: Black Slaves and Exotica in the Court of a Fourteenth-Century Aragonese Queen

Medieval Encounters, Volume 13 (3): 546 – Jan 1, 2007

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© 2007 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1380-7854
eISSN
1570-0674
D.O.I.
10.1163/157006707X222777
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Nigra Sum Sed Formosa : Black Slaves and Exotica in the Court of a Fourteenth-Century Aragonese Queen 1 Núria Silleras-Fernández University of California-Santa Cruz Abstract African slaves of Europeans are most commonly associated with images of exploitation as brute labor or domestic servants, as marginalized and discriminated against on the basis of their skin color, and perceived of as of inherently lower status. An examination of the role of black slaves in the royal households of the Crown of Aragon in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, however, reveals that African captives were sometimes given a privileged position at court. African slaves were esteemed as ornamental fixtures and, as such, com- prised yet another element of the exotica with which members of the aristocratic elite sur- rounded themselves in order to convey a sense of wealth and power. Although this may represent yet another dimension of the objectification of these slaves, nevertheless, it reflects the fact that, prior to the age of colonization and mass-enslavement, Africans could be valued rather than disdained for their appearance. Keywords Queens-Spain–History; Queenship; Slavery– History; Spain–History; Exotic Animals– History; Crown of Aragon (Spain)–History. 1 Th is article is a revised version of

Journal

Medieval EncountersBrill

Published: Jan 1, 2007

Keywords: Slavery—History; Queens-Spain—History; Crown of Aragon (Spain)—History; Queenship; Exotic Animals—History; Spain—History

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