Could someone tell me if there was a period in European history prior to the age of exploration where institutionalized slavery existed nowhere? If so, who was the last (European) nation to end the institution of slavery in post-classical eras and when was it?

Edit: I mean Slavery as institutions where it is clear that humans are owned as property. I don't believe serfdom had all of those qualities in the fullest sense like New World slavery or the slavery of ancient Rome.

  • The wikipedia page on slavery makes it clear that slavery has not yet ended. "Slavery existed before written history and in many cultures.[3] It was once institutionally recognized by most societies, but has now been outlawed in all countries,[4][5] the last being Mauritania in 2007. However, it continues through such practices as debt bondage, serfdom, domestic servants kept in captivity, "
    – MCW
    Oct 13, 2015 at 16:57
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    @shiningcartoonist Have you read the article on Slavery in Medieval Europe? Slavery, and slave markets, existed in Europe well into the Age of Discovery and the rise of the Atlantic Slave Trade, especially in Eastern Europe and along the frontiers of Christendom (vs the Islamic world).
    – Semaphore
    Oct 13, 2015 at 17:24
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    I quoted the relevant passage and provided a link to the article. If a serf cannot move without permission, cannot work in a different trade without permission, and can be bought and sold along with property, how is that different from slavery?
    – MCW
    Oct 13, 2015 at 17:27
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    I suppose the difference would be things such as vulnerability to such things as abuse of just about any kind. And while I'm sure some Lords did abuse their serfs, it was never made clear to me that was something common to all Lords. While rights of serfs were quite limited, it did not seem that serfdom had all the qualities that Slavery may have. Slavery seems to be the use of another person for one's own gain, and in serfdom there were understood to be at least some mutual benefits; even if disproportionate. I do confess I am no expert here, so if I am wrong I can appreciate correction. Oct 13, 2015 at 18:07
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    I think you need to do some preliminary research. Lords had low justice over their serfs, which means that they could not abuse those serfs by definition; the lord defined correct treatment.
    – MCW
    Oct 13, 2015 at 18:21

1 Answer 1


According to this answer, slavery was formally abolished in Russia in 1723. I think this overlaps with the age of discovery.

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