Tuesday, 9 September 2014

SLAVERY 10 - Warranties

I use the word 'warranty' not really for its legal implications, but because the nature of some of the contracts I've looked at has made me think of washing machines and mass-produced electrical goods. It's chilling to find another human being guaranteed for a certain length of time, as if they are nothing more than just another product.  And I suppose that it's odd also in the sense that guarantees of good working order for a particular length of time tend to refer to things which have been manufactured, ie, to a subset of commodities more generally: one might have expected slaves to be part of a different subset, and yet, clearly, their training and character was felt to be the responsibility of the trader to some extent.

For example, in 1280, a trader called Serdanus sold Tuerdoe of Bosnia with a money-back guarantee if she should run away within three years (Debita Notariae 1, fol 29r).  The sale was for life, the guarantee for three years - as if after that, the trader could hardly be held responsible for the long-term usefulness of his product. Weirdly, it's the three year limit on the guarantee, rather than the guarantee itself, which I find particularly unsettling - somehow it objectivises the woman more than anything.

The first archives I've worked in, where we're told not to wear bikinis or eat ice-creams.

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