In discussions on the whether Christianity played a key role in the abolition of slavery in the Western world, I've read the claim that the Christian Europe state, around 800-1000 AD, was the first place where slavery was abolished.

For example, commenter xlr wrote

Christian Europe in the post-Roman state was the first and for centuries only place on the planet were slavery was abolished. This was due to inherent issues between the faith and slavery.

Is this true?

EDIT: Since the initial answer refers to a place that 'abolished' slavery for three years before re-instating it, let's make this interesting and ask if Christian Europe was the first place to abolish slavery for a long period of time - say 100 years?

  • 1
    According to our Privileges section, you should only use comments to request clarification from the author or leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving this post. Please review the When shouldn't I comment? section and act appropriately in the future.
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 14, 2013 at 20:37
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    What is "Christian Europe state"? Europe was never a single political entity under one rule. Also, all the european countries were taking part in the slave trade or had slavery well after the 17th century (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolition_of_slavery_timeline).
    – SIMEL
    Dec 15, 2013 at 11:10
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    Various European countries also had peonage and/or serfdom on their own soil well into the second millennium CE; and those institutions have many of the properties of slavery. Dec 15, 2013 at 17:51
  • There are many forms of slavery, so this could be an extremely broad question. While it may be possible to leave it for the answers to define what it means to "be first" in a substantial manner, it may help to define what feature of slavery you are interested in: the right of the owner to sell a slave and separate him from his home/family; the master's right to summary execution of the slave; the heritability of slavery. My impression is that Anglo-American racial slavery was particularly extreme in many respects, so "slavery" should not be equated with that peculiar institution.
    – adam.r
    Jun 5, 2014 at 17:55
  • I agree with DJClayworth's edit. In "discussions on the whether Christianity played a key role in the abolition of slavery", there must be very little utility in bringing up an example with 0 historic relevance. Jun 5, 2014 at 18:34

1 Answer 1


No. Wang Mang, an Emperor of the Xin Dynasty, abolished slavery in the year 9CE. (It was reinstated, but that's not the question.)

(via Wikipedia referencing Hallet, Nicole. "China and Antislavery". Encyclopedia of Antislavery and Abolition, Vol. 1, p. 154 – 156. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007. ISBN 0-313-33143-X.)

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    Not just "it was reinstated" but "he reinstated it three years later".
    – Henry
    Dec 14, 2013 at 20:34
  • Yes, but the question has to be taken narrowly: it's clearly the case that the definition of slavery is somewhat gray: forced labor as a punishment, inherited slavery, serfdom, indentured servitude, etc. and it's clearly the case that slavery was criticized by, for instance, Stoic philosophers. If you broaden the question to be "first long-lasting societal condemnation of humans as chattel" or what-have-you, I think it becomes unanswerable by this site. Dec 14, 2013 at 20:59
  • "the question has to be taken narrowly" Well, I added some context so that it was not taken so narrowly: such an ephemeral decree that has no social relevance (slavery was not de-facto abolished). Looking at that reference, I'd rather pick the laws fom the beginning of the Ming dinasty: even when they occured around 1368, I guess that the influence of european laws (or christian ideas) ideas should have played zero influence, right?
    – leonbloy
    Dec 14, 2013 at 21:14
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    That's interesting. If slavery as a punishment constitutes slavery, then slavery is still legal in America.
    – Publius
    Dec 14, 2013 at 23:43
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    The question does not have to be taken narrowly. In fact this answer almost certainly isn't what the OP was looking for. Any chance you know the answer to the question that was probably intended? Jun 5, 2014 at 17:39

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