Did I mention slaves in that last post? I did. In our beloved Republican Florence, cradle of humanism? I'm afraid so. It was fully legal. On the 8th March, 1364, the Signori (usually 8 leaders of the government elected from among men who were members of guilds) agreed that provided the slave was not Catholic, any citizen of Florence or its surrounding countryside could buy a slave, and freely bring him or her into the city, sell the slave and control the slave's movements. The owner had all rights to retrieve a runaway, and not be obstructed. The argument was that the labour force, which had shrunk by 60% in the plague needed cost-effective reinforcements. Slaves were the answer. (By the way, they had hired consultants, 20 wise and learned men.)
There was only the proviso that the slaves must be treated the same as the servants. Oddly, this was a good thing. Servants, by law and custom, were part of the family, and so therefore were the slaves. Master and mistress of the household clothed, fed and instructed them. And, because, after the initial purchase, they cost only their board, they were cheaper than servants. At least among the Datini they seem to have been looked after as carefully as the animals. And the animals, at least the mules and horses, were essential for the business, constantly receiving food and medical attention.
The slaves came from North Africa or Eastern Europe, and were usually bought quite young. Francesco traded them, selecting them from the ships in Genoa. He had several slaves himself, of whom more in later posts, for we know many of them by name. How ironic it is that young women from the former Soviet Union still find their way into enslavement in western Europe. Their predecessors of 700 years ago also faced exploitation by the masters of a household, quite apart from having to work from dawn to dusk. But often this led to a way out. Francesco fathered a child of his slave Ghirigora, only 15 at the time. He openly acknowledged the child and gave Ghirigora a dowry and married her to one of his business associates. How she must have felt leaving that house, terrified yet triumphant, with money and freedom. Leonardo da Vinci's mother was a slave who, after she became pregnant was kept in the family, where her son was raised. Everything for children.
On March 22nd, Margherita was contemplating firing a contract worker, one Montepulciano, so insignificant he didn't even get a name apart from the place he came from. It was not her slaves or servants she would dispense with, but the poor, unskilled freeman who would step out onto the muddy road with no resources, and no safe place.