Skip to comments.EUROPEAN SLAVES: RESEARCH SUGGESTS WHITE SLAVERY WAS MUCH MORE COMMON THAN PREVIOUSLY BELIEVED
Posted on 05/28/2014 12:12:26 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new study suggests that a million or more European Christians were enslaved by Muslims in North Africa between 1530 and 1780 – a far greater number than had ever been estimated before.
In a new book, Robert Davis, professor of history at Ohio State University, developed a unique methodology to calculate the number of white Christians who were enslaved along Africa’s Barbary Coast, arriving at much higher slave population estimates than any previous studies had found.
Most other accounts of slavery along the Barbary coast didn’t try to estimate the number of slaves, or only looked at the number of slaves in particular cities, Davis said. Most previously estimated slave counts have thus tended to be in the thousands, or at most in the tens of thousands. Davis, by contrast, has calculated that between 1 million and 1.25 million European Christians were captured and forced to work in North Africa from the 16th to 18th centuries.
Davis’s new estimates appear in the book Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 (Palgrave Macmillan).
“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.”
“Much of what has been written gives the impression that there were not many slaves and minimizes the impact that slavery had on Europe,” Davis said. “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.”
Davis said it is useful to compare this Mediterranean slavery to the Atlantic slave trade that brought black Africans to the Americas. Over the course of four centuries, the Atlantic slave trade was much larger – about 10 to 12 million black Africans were brought to the Americas. But from 1500 to 1650, when trans-Atlantic slaving was still in its infancy, more white Christian slaves were probably taken to Barbary than black African slaves to the Americas, according to Davis.
“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,” Davis said. “We cannot think of slavery as something that only white people did to black people.”
During the time period Davis studied, it was religion and ethnicity, as much as race, that determined who became slaves.
“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,” he said.
Pirates (called corsairs) from cities along the Barbary Coast in north Africa – cities such as Tunis and Algiers – would raid ships in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, as well as seaside villages to capture men, women and children. The impact of these attacks were devastating – France, England, and Spain each lost thousands of ships, and long stretches of the Spanish and Italian coasts were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants. At its peak, the destruction and depopulation of some areas probably exceeded what European slavers would later inflict on the African interior.
Although hundreds of thousands of Christian slaves were taken from Mediterranean countries, Davis noted, the effects of Muslim slave raids was felt much further away: it appears, for example, that through most of the 17th century the English lost at least 400 sailors a year to the slavers.
Even Americans were not immune. For example, one American slave reported that 130 other American seamen had been enslaved by the Algerians in the Mediterranean and Atlantic just between 1785 and 1793.
Davis said the vast scope of slavery in North Africa has been ignored and minimized, in large part because it is on no one’s agenda to discuss what happened.
The enslavement of Europeans doesn’t fit the general theme of European world conquest and colonialism that is central to scholarship on the early modern era, he said. Many of the countries that were victims of slavery, such as France and Spain, would later conquer and colonize the areas of North Africa where their citizens were once held as slaves. Maybe because of this history, Western scholars have thought of the Europeans primarily as “evil colonialists” and not as the victims they sometimes were, Davis said.
Davis said another reason that Mediterranean slavery has been ignored or minimized has been that there have not been good estimates of the total number of people enslaved. People of the time – both Europeans and the Barbary Coast slave owners – did not keep detailed, trustworthy records of the number of slaves. In contrast, there are extensive records that document the number of Africans brought to the Americas as slaves.
So Davis developed a new methodology to come up with reasonable estimates of the number of slaves along the Barbary Coast. Davis found the best records available indicating 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.
“The only way I could come up with hard numbers is to turn the whole problem upside down – figure out how many slaves they would have to capture to maintain a certain level,” he said. “It is not the best way to make population estimates, but it is the only way with the limited records available.”
Putting together such sources of attrition as deaths, escapes, ransomings, and conversions, Davis calculated that about one-fourth of slaves had to be replaced each year to keep the slave population stable, as it apparently was between 1580 and 1680. That meant about 8,500 new slaves had to be captured each year. Overall, this suggests nearly a million slaves would have been taken captive during this period. Using the same methodology, Davis has estimated as many as 475,000 additional slaves were taken in the previous and following centuries.
The result is that between 1530 and 1780 there were almost certainly 1 million and quite possibly as many as 1.25 million white, European Christians enslaved by the Muslims of the Barbary Coast.
Davis said his research into the treatment of these slaves suggests that, for most of them, their lives were every bit as difficult as that of slaves in America.
“As far as daily living conditions, the Mediterranean slaves certainly didn’t have it better,” he said.
While African slaves did grueling labor on sugar and cotton plantations in the Americas, European Christian slaves were often worked just as hard and as lethally – in quarries, in heavy construction, and above all rowing the corsair galleys themselves.
Davis said his findings suggest that this invisible slavery of European Christians deserves more attention from scholars.
“We have lost the sense of how large enslavement could loom for those who lived around the Mediterranean and the threat they were under,” he said. “Slaves were still slaves, whether they are black or white, and whether they suffered in America or North Africa.”
So I should be expecting a repations check from the Arabs?
Beat me to it.
I demand reparations. NOW!!!!
It’s ironic that some blacks in America who resent past slavery convert to Islam when it’s the Muslims who sold blacks into slavery in the first place, and the Christians helped to free them.
consider the Ottoman empire.
subjects were considered slaves. not allowed to learn to read, or practice their faith.
For instance, the very word slave stems from Slav, i.e. a reference to the experience of millions of (white) Slavish people who endured centuries of slavery at the hands of African Muslims. This, of course, is a most inconvenient truth, for it is a most Politically Incorrect truth. But it is the truth.
Yet the Slavish arent the only whites who spent centuries in captivity: Europeans of various backgrounds were enslaved by African Muslims as well. All of this is heavily documented in such neglected pieces of scholarship as Robert Daviss Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 and Paul Baeplers White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives.
Nor is it just that millions of whites in Europe were made to toil in bondage for hundreds of years. Don Jordans White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britains White Slaves in America and Michael Hoffmans They Were White and They Were Slaves: The Untold History of the Enslavement of Whites in Early America impeccably establish that whites were enslaved in colonial America as well. Moreover, these brave authors show that the conditions that whites, including, most tragically, white children, had to endure both en route to the colonies as well as once they arrived were at least as dreadful as those experienced by Africans.
This last point would as well be included in an honest discussion of slavery. The word kidnapping that is so often, but erroneously, used to describe the circumstances that allegedly resulted in the transportation of Africans to the New World derives from the fact that British childrenkidswere regularly nabbed off of the streets of England and sold into slavery in America.
An honest discussion of race would mention what no less a figure than black Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates recently discovered: free blacks were in America before slavery. While researching the book and documentary The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, Gates admits to having been shocked to discover that blacks freely came to America, to Florida, as early as 1513over 100 years earlier than the standard date of 1619. And the one black man whose name is now known was a conquistador who came in search of the Fountain of Youth with Ponce de Leon.
4,000 free black families owned slaves in the antebellum South. More stunning still is that, arguably, the first slave master in early America was a black man.
Anthony Johnsona name, doubtless, of which few people today, black or white, would have heardwas an Angolan who was first sold by Africans to Arabs before winding up as an indentured servant in Virginia. There, he attained his freedom, became a planter, and acquired his own indentured servants. One of the latter, John Casor, a black man, served his mandatory seven yearsbut Johnson refused to set him free.
Through a long, windy series of court battles, Johnson succeeded in prevailing upon the courts to declare Casor Johnsons servant for life. Slavery was born, as this was the very first time in the colonies when it was legally determined that a person who had committed no crime had to spend the rest of his remaining existence in bondage.
Somebody owes me some $$$$$ baby, and I be’s WANTS’N it!!!!
Google sack of baltimore ireland.
YEAH!!!!! And a free cellphone.
And some Gub’mint CHEESE TOO!!!
Da kind with the li’l red specks and stuff!!!!!
Interesting indeed, although not very useful in today’s climate since truth must take second place to political correctness. If it doesn’t make the right people feel good about themselves, it must be wrong.
It appears some Muslim traders were equal-ethnicity enslavers ....
I have seen numbers of up 2.4 million.
Black Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates researched and discovered that of the 12.5 million Africans sold during the era of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, only about 388,000 were shipped to America.
WHERE’S MY REPARATIONS!!??
People forget that Americans brought slaves from Africa because THAT IS WHERE THE SLAVE MARKET WAS.
They didn’t just go there and decide to kidnap people and make them slaves, the marketplaces existed long before the USA was formed.
10 times as many slaves were sold to other countries, it was the basis for the economy back then.
Whole towns in IRELAND were taken as slaves by the muslims. That is how bad it was...
Keep in mind when reading the account that all these slavers were referred to as "Turks" even though they would more accurately be of North African/Berber/Barbary state origin.
Of course. Your ancestor from 300 years ago was probably treated unfairly.
How about our European ancestors who fled horrible oppression and even “slavery.” The governments of Europe owe me money! Give it up NOW!
And of course Roman society was dependent on slavery (of other Europeans they conquered)
It really irks me that people do not include the historical long view of slavery and assume it was just a N. American invention.
Most Africans shipped across the Atlantic were enslaved first either by their own pagan leaders or by pagan slave raiders.
Throughout this period, the sale of slaves to Europeans was almost exclusively controlled by pagan kingdoms along the coast. Some of those they sold were probably initially captured by Muslims, but most Muslim captives went north across the Sahara or east across the Red Sea or Indian Ocean.
At is peak the “Christian” transatlantic trade was much larger in volume than the Muslim Sahara and Indian Ocean trade, but the Muslim trade started much sooner and lasted at least a century longer. The total number of Africans shipped out of Africa by the two trades was probably similar, somewhere between 10M and 15M.
IOW, few American blacks are descended from those enslaved by Muslims.
It’s a good thing you put “Christian” in quotes because to some there is no difference between cultural Christians and actual Christians. There is in fact a difference, but this is the very basis on how some claim that Hitler was also a Christian, although never calling himself one. Western culture is basically what’s left of what was once known as “Christendom”, having now fallen somewhat from that.
Biggar, H.P., "The Early Trading Companies of New France," 1st edit., 1901, Toronto: University of Toronto Library; reprint, Clifton, NJ: Augustus M. Kelly Publishers, 1972; New York: Sentry Press
The black man you are referring to is probably Esteban or Estevanico, one of the four survivors of the Narvaez expedition which landed in Florida in 1528—known about from the narrative written by Cabeza de Vaca after they got back to Mexico. They had been shipwrecked on the coast of Texas and were enslaved by local Indians for several years before finally escaping.
There was also a huge slave trade in eastern Europe, with the Balkans, Ukraine and Russia regularly raided for a thousand years by Norse, Germans, Bulgars, Greeks, Tatars and Turks.
This massive trade resulted in the word variants of the word “Slav” being imported into almost every modern European language to mean a person held in chattel bondage.
One big difference between Muslim and “Christian” slavery is that Muslim slavery was largely conspicuous luxury consumption (especially sex toys and soldiers) rather than used for capitalist production.
Unfortunately, most of those who engaged in the slave trade were actual Christians, to use your terms, at least in their own minds and those of their contemporaries.
I used the quotes because IMO slavery is in conflict with the basic ideas and concepts of Christianity. Unfortunately, the actual New Testament contains no specific denunciation of the institution, with the writers apparently accepting it as just a fact of life.
As indeed apparently all human societies did until Christians began a campaign against it in the 18th century.
The Romans, like just about all human societies, were equal-opportunity enslavers. They enslaved people from Europe, Africa and the Middle East. And they bought slaves from almost anywhere outside the Empire.
There was little or no racial or racist component to slavery in most societies before the 16th century in the Americas.
But we certainly can think of it as something Muslims did to both.
Oh, I'm sorry - did that step on some rose-colored world views? :)
Do they ever count indentured servants or bond-slaves in the statistics?
It was very frequent in Europe to sentence someone to being a bond-slave as punishment for a crime like stealing a loaf of bread, or not being able to pay a debt.
I’m Slavic Where do they think that name came from????
I see your point there too. John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, continued in the slave trade for a while even after converting, before becoming an abolitionist. But the point is that his conversion began a transition toward a better state of being. Islam, however, still practices slavery. Conversion carries no such desire to better one’s self in that regard.
Just look at what the Germans did in ww2.
Mans inhumanity to man can only be stopped by God.
Your politically-correct dictionary will not tell you this, but where o you think the term “barbarian” came from?
A little discussed FACT is that the main reason Europe established colonies in North Africa in the first place was to simply control their coastlines, so that they could trade in peace with each other (as in Italy trading with Spain).
The idea that they went there just for kicks is totally discredited.
Islam is specifically based on slavery in a way that Christianity most definitely is not.
Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians exhorted to go forth to conquer and enslave unbelievers as in the Koran. We’re instructed to proclaim the word of God to them, quite a different concept.
Indeed. Jesus told his disciples “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet”. Mohammed commanded his followers to react in a slightly different way. Islam is altogether antagonistic whereas Christianity embodies God’s gift of free will. There is no concept of free will in Islam.
Got that right.
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