Friday, November 7, 2008
Hidden History - Muslim pirates from North Africa terrorize Europe for centuries up till 1800; Over one million Europeans enslaved
A million Europeans enslaved
March 10, 2004
An American historian says that more than a million Europeans were enslaved by North African slave traders between 1530 and 1780, a time of vigorous Mediterranean and Atlantic coastal piracy.
The number of white European slaves is only a fraction of the trade that brought 10 million to 12 million black African slaves to the Americas over a 400-year period, historian Robert Davis says, but his research shows the slave trade was more widespread than commonly assumed. The impact on Europe's white population was significant.
"One of the things that both the public and many scholars have tended to take as given is that slavery was always racial in nature -- that only blacks have been slaves. But that is not true," said Mr. Davis, an Ohio State University professor.
"Enslavement was a very real possibility for anyone who traveled in the Mediterranean, or who lived along the shores in places like Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, and even as far north as England and Iceland."
In a new book, "Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800," Mr. Davis calculates that between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by pirates called "corsairs" and forced to work in North Africa during that period.
The raids were so aggressive that entire Mediterranean seaside towns were abandoned by frightened residents. "Much of what has been written gives the impression that there were not many slaves and minimizes the impact that slavery had on Europe.
"Most accounts only look at slavery in one place, or only for a short period of time. But when you take a broader, longer view, the massive scope of this slavery and its powerful impact become clear."
The pirates, sailing from such cities as Tunis and Algiers, raided ships in the Mediterranean and Atlantic as well as seaside villages to capture men, women and children, he says. They were put to work in quarries, in heavy construction and as oarsmen in the pirates' galleys.
Mr. Davis calculated his estimates using records that indicate how many slaves were at a particular location at a single time. He then estimated how many new slaves it would take to replace slaves as they died, escaped or were ransomed.
"It is not the best way to make population estimates, but it is the only way with the limited records available."
WHEN EUROPEANS WERE SLAVES: RESEARCH SUGGESTS WHITE SLAVERY WAS MUCH MORE COMMON THAN PREVIOUSLY BELIEVED
Thomas Jefferson's war against the muslim pirates of the Barbary Coast
Over the course of 10 centuries, Muslim pirates cruised the African and Mediterranean coastline, pillaging villages and seizing slaves.
The taking of slaves in pre-dawn raids on unsuspecting coastal villages had a high casualty rate. It was typical of Muslim raiders to kill off as many of the "non-Muslim" older men and women as possible so the preferred "booty" of only young women and children could be collected.
Young non-Muslim women were targeted because of their value as concubines in Islamic markets. Islamic law provides for the sexual interests of Muslim men by allowing them to take as many as four wives at one time and to have as many concubines as their fortunes allow.
Boys, as young as 9 or 10 years old, were often mutilated to create eunuchs who would bring higher prices in the slave markets of the Middle East. Muslim slave traders created "eunuch stations" along major African slave routes so the necessary surgery could be performed. It was estimated that only a small number of the boys subjected to the mutilation survived after the surgery.
Not long after Jefferson's inauguration as president in 1801, he dispatched a group of frigates to defend American interests in the Mediterranean, and informed Congress.
Declaring that America was going to spend "millions for defense but not one cent for tribute," Jefferson pressed the issue by deploying American Marines and many of America's best warships to the Muslim Barbary Coast.
The USS Constitution, USS Constellation, USS Philadelphia, USS Chesapeake, USS Argus, USS Syren and USS Intrepid all saw action.
In 1805, American Marines marched across the dessert from Egypt into Tripolitania, forcing the surrender of Tripoli and the freeing of all American slaves.
During the Jefferson administration, the Muslim Barbary States, crumbling as a result of intense American naval bombardment and on shore raids by Marines, finally officially agreed to abandon slavery and piracy.
Jefferson's victory over the Muslims lives on today in the Marine Hymn, with the line, "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we will fight our country's battles on the land as on the sea."
It wasn't until 1815 that the problem was fully settled by the total defeat of all the Muslim slave trading pirates.