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This article has grown out of my doctoral research on Afghan state formation in the early nineteenth century. My wife, Lila Rabinovich, offered a wealth of critical observations, as well as faithfully proofread numerous drafts. Francesca Orsini provided useful commentary on the South Asian aspects of this paper, while Dr.I presented an early version of this paper to the World History Graduate Seminar at the University of Cambridge. I would also like to acknowledge my anonymous reviewer, whose insightful comments helped me strengthen the article. Christine van Ruymbeke gave me some comments from the Persian angle, as well as more general feedback.

As early as 1839, the Third Department, or political police, argued in their annual report the Tsarist government should pre-empt potential difficulties through early emancipation.

Kolchin, ‘In defense of servitude: American proslavery and Russian proserfdom arguments, 1760–1860’, Even this objection was not born out in practice.

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Pinch, ‘Goswain Tawaif: Slaves, sex and ascetics in Rasdhan, ca.

1800–57’, contingents as household guards, etc, tribal levies, peasant recruits and mercenaries constituted the bulk of military forces.

At one point, the narrative places the number of Russian slaves in Bukhara at a mere ten, while it later insists there were 5–600 Russian captives.

Scheidler, NAI Pottinger to Macnaghten, 11 July 1838; IOR L/PS/5/127, Copy of a letter from the Persia Envoy Extraordinary: Mc Neill to Macnaghten, 22 January 1837; IOR L/PS/5/130, Notice on Herat, with a Sketch of the state of affairs in the surrounding counties (Burnes to Wade), 7 February 1838.

Women apparently sold for less, but beautiful ones could be sold for as much as 2400 Francs.

He estimated that wealthy Bukharans had an average of forty slaves.

I owe thanks to a number of people for encouraging me to write this article, as well as taking the time to read over early drafts. He went on to write ‘As my object was only to examine the feelings of the slave-dealer, and also to gratify my curiosity, and not to purchase her, I came back to my camp without bidding farewell to the merchant.’ Ibid. military slaves had been historically important and prominent throughout Islamic history, slave-based armies had largely collapsed by the nineteenth century, instead replaced by free labour ones.

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