Slavery on the Barbary Coast

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The slave market of Algiers in the early 17th century.

Slavery on the Barbary Coast refer to the enslavement of people taken captive by the barbary corsairs in the Barbary Coast area of North Africa.

According to Robert Davis, author of Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters, between 1 million and 1.2 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates and sold as slaves in North Africa and The Ottoman Empire between the 16th and 19th centuries.[1][2] However, these estimates have been challenged by other historians, such as David Earle, author of The Corsairs of Malta and Barbary and The Pirate Wars.[3]

From bases on the Barbary coast, North Africa, the Barbary pirates raided ships traveling through the Mediterranean and along the northern and western coasts of Africa, plundering their cargo and enslaving the people they captured. From at least 1500, the pirates also conducted raids along seaside towns of Italy, Spain, France, England, the Netherlands and as far away as Iceland, capturing men, women and children. On some occasions, settlements such as Baltimore, Ireland were abandoned following the raid, only being resettled many years later. Between 1609 and 1616, England alone had 466 merchant ships lost to Barbary pirates.[4]

Barbary Wars[edit]

Commercial ships from the United States of America were subject to pirate attacks. In 1783, the United States made peace with, and gained recognition from, the British monarchy. In 1784, the first American ship was seized by pirates from Morocco. By late 1793, a dozen American ships had been captured, goods stripped and everyone enslaved. After some serious debate, the US created the United States Navy in March 1794.[5]

This new military presence helped to stiffen American resolve to resist the continuation of tribute payments, leading to the two Barbary Wars along the North African coast: the First Barbary War from 1801 to 1805[5] and the Second Barbary War in 1815. Payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary states had amounted to 20% of United States government annual revenues in 1800.[6] It was not until 1815 that naval victories ended tribute payments by the United States. Some European nations continued annual payments until the 1830s.[7] The white slave trade and markets in the Mediterranean declined and eventually disappeared after the European occupations. [8]

Slave narratives[edit]

In comparison to North American and Caribbean slave narratives, the North African slave narratives in English were written by British and American white slaves captured (often at sea or through Barbary pirates) and enslaved in North Africa in the 18th and early 19th centuries. These narratives have a distinct form in that they highlight the "otherness" of the Muslim slave traders, whereas the African-American slave narratives often call slave traders to account as fellow Christians.

Narratives focused on the central themes of freedom and liberty which drew inspiration from the American Revolution. Since the narratives include the recurrence of themes and events, quoting, and relying heavily upon each other it is believed by scholars that the main source of information was other narratives more so than real captivities.[9] Female captives were depicted as Gothic fiction characters clinging to the hope of freedom thus more relatable to the audience.[10]

Examples include:

  • Charles Sumner (1847). White Slavery in the Barbary States: A lecture before the Boston Mercantile Library Association, Feb. 17, 1847. Independently Published. ISBN 9781092289818.
  • A True and Faithful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mahometans by Joseph Pitts (1663–1735) tells his capture as a boy age 14 or 15 by pirates while fishing off Newfoundland. His sale as a slave and his life under three different masters in North Africa, and his travels to Mecca are all described.
  • Tyrkja-Gudda, 1952 and 2001
  • Thomas Pellow, The History of the Long Captivity and Adventures of Thomas Pellow, In South Barbary, 1740
  • A Curious, Historical and Entertaining Narrative of the Captivity and almost unheard of Sufferings and Cruel treatment of Mr Robert White, 1790[11]
  • A Journal of the Captivity and Suffering of John Foss; Several Years a Prisoner in Algiers, 1798[12]
  • History of the Captivity and Sufferings of Mrs Maria Martin who was six years a slave in Algiers; two of which she was confined in a dismal dungeon, loaded with irons, by the command of an inhuman Turkish officer. Written by herself. To which is added, a concise history of Algiers, with the manners and customs of the people, 1812[13]
  • Captain James Riley, Sufferings in Africa, 1815
  • The Narrative of Robert Adams, An American Sailor who was wrecked on the West Coast of Africa in the year 1810; was detained Three Years in Slavery by the Arabs of the Great Desert, 1816
  • James Leander Cathcart, The Captives, Eleven Years a Prisoner in Algiers, published in 1899, many years after his captivity

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Davis, Robert. Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800.[1]
  2. ^ "When Europeans were slaves: Research suggests white slavery was much more common than previously believed" Archived 2011-07-25 at the Wayback Machine, Research News, Ohio State University
  3. ^ Carroll, Rory; correspondent, Africa (2004-03-11). "New book reopens old arguments about slave raids on Europe". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  4. ^ Rees Davies, "British Slaves on the Barbary Coast", BBC, 1 July 2003
  5. ^ a b The Mariners' Museum: The Barbary Wars, 1801-1805
  6. ^ Oren, Michael B. (2005-11-03). "The Middle East and the Making of the United States, 1776 to 1815". Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  7. ^ Richard Leiby, "Terrorists by Another Name: The Barbary Pirates", The Washington Post, October 15, 2001
  8. ^ The Cambridge World History of Slavery: Volume 3, AD 1420–AD 1804
  9. ^ Papadopoulou, Nikoletta (2017). "The narrative's 'general truth': Authenticity and the mediation of violence in Barbary captivity narratives". European Journal of American Culture. 36 (3): 209–223. doi:10.1386/ejac.36.3.209_1.
  10. ^ Baepler, Paul (1999). White Slaves, African Masters. University of Chicago Press.
  11. ^ Pope Melish, Joanne (2015). Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and "Race" in New England, 1780–1860. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-3413-6.
  12. ^ Wood, Sarah F. (2005). Quixotic Fictions of the USA, 1792-1815. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 119–120. ISBN 9780199273157.
  13. ^ Martin, Maria (1811). History of the captivity and sufferings of Maria Martin, who was six years a slave in Algiers; two of which she was confined in a dismal dungeon, loaded with irons, by the command of an inhuman Turkish officer. Written by herself. To which is added, a concise history of Algiers, with the manners and customs of the people.

External links[edit]