White Gold – History missing from my History

As I have been writing about over the few days, I have been learning so much about what I did not know. Part of history was missing, and Missing information, Bronze Age. How my understanding has been wrong in the article Interpretation gone wrong, how I got information that I understood one way, but was to mean something different to the person giving me the information.

Over a year ago, I saw a snippet of information on a news program which said that people from towns of the south coast of England had been abducted whilst attending church, and were forced into slavery by Moroccan sultans.

Oh yes“, I thought. Pull the other one, it has bells on. I had never heard of that story before, perhaps it was information to promote another film like the Pirates of the Caribbean or in the next sequel to Indiana Jones series, ‘Indiana Jones and the Jewelled Zimmer Frame‘.

I was whilst working in Bahrain I was introduced by Phil Edwards, to a book by Giles Milton, and called White Gold, which told the story of white slavery, giving more information on the abductions I was so uniformed about.

White Gold tells the story of one young Ccornish boy in particular, Thomas Pellow, who was enslaved for twenty-three years, and how other Christian Europeans were taken into slavery by Islamic slave traders in the great slave markets of Morocco, in the towns of Salé, Fez, Meknes, Marrakesh, to name but a few.

It tells of the tyrannical sultans, especially Sultan Moulay Ismail, who ruled Morocco with a heavy hand, himself and his black guards killing by the most horrid methods, torturing at a whim the white slaves. Sultan Moulay wanted the best and the biggest, bigger and better than the Palace of Versailles,of King Louis XIV.  Sultan Moulay wanted the biggest, the best palaces, forts, gardens, armies, riches, and he could only obtain and build these riches with labour, mass human armies of white slave labour.

Labour was hard to come by, but the Barbary corsairs who were also known as the “Turkish Corsairs“, “Ottoman Corsairs“, or pirates, based in North Africa, in towns such as Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers and Salé, soon learned that they could make more money in the slave markets from selling humans than they could from the ships and cargo they captured, such as silks, spices etc.

They would raid ships in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean, especially the Straits of Gibraltar, and no Governments could stop them. Whole crews would be enslaved, from the captain down to the galley boy.

Not only would they capture ships, but as mentioned above, they would raid towns around the Mediterranean, in countries such as Italy, Spain, up into the Atlantic, Portugal, France, Holland, England and Ireland as far as IcelandRussia. They would take to whole community. Even North American merchant ships were also targeted.

From the early 1600’s until the early 1800’s, it is thought that between 1 million to 1.25 million Europeans were enslaved. Once caught, they would never be released unless ransom money would be paid, and that was not often, or they died in the underground holding pens, not seeing the light of day for years, living with vermin, disease on little or no food. 

Men would be put to building work, labouring, or being part of the European renegade army the Sultans kept. Women were put into the harems. The slaves were sold throughout the Islamic world as far away as Aden, Alexandria, Cairo, Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire.

Another aim of the sultans on the Barbary Coast against the European Christian slaves was to convert them to Islam or get them to Turn Turk. Many were tortured into Turning Turk, and those that turned or became apostatized, were disowned by their families, friends and the establishment back in their home country, and any remote chance of rescue would be lost.

Many treaties were signed, but were never honoured for long, if at all, and it was rare if any slaves would be repatriated. The might of the European navies could not match those of the corsairs, these often would be under the command of white European Christian’s, who became very rich and established themselves in lavish surroundings.

Also taken into slavery by the Sultans would be black African guards, who were taken at an early age to be trained and become fiercely loyal to the Sultans and the regime, to be the absolute masters of the white European slaves.

None of this important history was taught at school, even if I knew of the Kings and Queens of British history, James I, James II, George I, and Queen Anne, but not one mention of the white slaves of North Africa.

We were again taught what was told to be taught. I had learned that the British had enslaved millions of black Africans for the American British Colonies and West Indies, how wrong it was, but nothing about how white Europeans were enslaved many years before.

We only know what we know, and yet we think we know it all.

OK, so what else is missing from my knowledge. More to follow.

An interesting book which has enlighten my knowledge, well worth a read.

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