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White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam's One Million White Slaves Paperback – June 13, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For this harrowing story of white captives in 18th-century Morocco, Milton (author of the highly praised Nathaniel's Nutmeg) draws primarily on the memoir of a Cornish cabin boy, Thomas Pellow, who was taken by Islamic pirates in 1716 and sold as a slave to the legendarily tyrannical Sultan Moulay Ismail. Pellow remained in Morocco for more than 20 years, his family barely recognizing him when he at last escaped home. Placing Pellow's tale within wider horizons, Milton describes how, during the 17th and 18th centuries, thousands of European captives were snatched from their coastal villages by Islamic slave traders intent on waging war on Christendom. Put into forced labor and appalling living conditions, they perished in huge numbers. As a pragmatic convert to Islam, Pellow fared better, earning a wife who bore him a daughter. Milton includes Pellow's years as a soldier in Moulay Ismail's army and draws out his cliff-hanging escape back to England. Pellow's sensational tale dominates the book, and though rendered in seductively poised prose, in the end it feels short on ideas and argument. Milton also fails to cite other historians working in this area (a prime example being Linda Colley). 16 pages of b&w illus. not seen by PW; 2 maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The horrors of the transatlantic slave trade have been extensively documented in print and eloquently portrayed on film and television. But chattel slavery was a well-established African as well as European institution, and its victims were not exclusively people of color. In the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries, the Barbary states of North Africa used Islamic pirates, or corsairs, to conduct slave raids, which fed the flourishing slave markets of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. Many of the enslaved were white Europeans or North Americans captured at sea. Among them was Thomas Pellow, an 11-year-old English child who was seized in 1716 and served for 23 years as a personal servant to Sultan Moulay Ismail of Morocco. Milton relates Pellow's compelling story as a triumph of wile, pluck, and endurance; but this is also a tale of great brutality and suffering, as Milton eloquently shows that all of the indignities one associates with European and American slavery were visited upon those held in North Africa. A riveting account. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (June 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312425295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312425296
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,582,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

www.gilesmilton.com

'The master of narrative history' - Sunday Times.

Giles Milton is an internationally best-selling author of narrative non-fiction. His books include Nathaniel's Nutmeg - serialized by the BBC - and seven other critically acclaimed works of history. Giles Milton's debut thriller, The Perfect Corpse, will be published on 2 September 2014.

Giles lives in London, UK, with his wife, the illustrator Alexandra Milton, and three daughters.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 68 people found the following review helpful By A. Woodley on June 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Did you know that Arab slave traders used to pluck villagrs and fishermen from the coast of Britain and take them off to serve in slavery in the Islamic world. I didn't even know that this trade existed, and in fact it continued into the eighteenth century - this little known fact has been turned into another compelling history by Giles milton

He tells this story mostly from the records remaining about Thomas Pellow, an 11-year-old English child who was seized in 1716 and served for 23 years as a personal servant to Sultan Moulay Ismail of Morocco. However Pellow provides a background for the slave trade in general. It seems to be a very good choice of subject. He was young enough to assimilate to a greater extent with his new owners - learnign the language and customs quickly. He was also smart and plucky enough to get himself out of all kinds of situations which would have meant instant death for many. The value of life was not that great.

For the rest of Pellow's crewmates there was little hope and many served in appalling circumstances and died there labouring on the immense palaces the Moulay wanted to build.

Most extraodinary is the almost catch 22 the prisoners found themselves in, if they converted to Islam they would not be eligible for ransom by their government, however if they didn't convert they were almost sure to die in appalling conditions.

Milton writes without turning this into a tabloid-style history - it is balanced and interesting, he doesn't linger on the horrors, keeping to the story. I think this makes it strongger, and I found this book a real page turner - following Pellow's captivity and eventual daring gives it structure and the research fills in the background - my highest recommendation
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Radokomahay on June 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I found this book in Dar es Salaam bookstore. Fascinating history of the well kept secret of white slaves in North Africa. None of our history books note that this is the reason the US Navy was sent to whip the Barbary pirates. Probably too embarrassing to admit that there was a time that Europe and the US was impotent in this white slave trade. Well written but not for the weak of heart.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. White on September 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you are like me, you have only heard of the Barbary Pirates briefly mentioned in history classes as an aside when discussing Jefferson. I had no idea that the pirates raided as far away as England, Iceland, and Russia.

This book is deeply fascinating not only because it is the first many of us have heard about this form of white slavery, but it also gives a fascinating look at the Moulay Ismael dynasty in Morocco. While this look is limited by telling the story through Thomas Pellows' experiences, it is fascinating to get a glimpse of an absolute ruler who had even more power and lived in more grandeur than Louis XIV.

The only way to improve the book would be to include more information on how the pirate raids and the enslavement of the English merchants and villagers affected and changed English government and society.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Martin on March 10, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having heard of this book from friends, I checked it out before purchase as there are nowadays many examples of history being rewritten for what might be termed "politially correct" reasons.

Indeed this book may soon be unavailable due to those reasons. It could be construed that this account of slavery might cause offense to Muslims, though none of the Muslims I know personally would be so offended. But one of the motivations for me to buy this book was the "review" by the (Islamic?) correspondent of the Washington Post, which you kindly reproduce. Viewing this distainful dismissal was for me most revealing and may (I hope) encourage others to make this purchase also.

They will be rewarded by an account of a period of history which is being quietly swept under the carpet and out of sight.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Angry on August 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an amazingly interesting book. I couldn't put it down. Myself and many of my friends had no idea this was a part of European/Islamic history. Some feel this isn't for the faint hearted.

One reviewer wrote, "Does this sound uncomfortably familiar? Like some Islamic extremists of today, the Sultans laughed about holding Europe to ransom. They were rarely met with force." History does indeed repeat itself.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Anya Sherwood on December 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in 4 days it was so good! Giles Milton really has a way with putting together historical facts into a great sequential story. The story is about Thomas Pellow and his first voyage with his uncle that ends up with them being captured and sent into slavery under and Islamic leader Moulay Ismail. It seems Pellow survived unbelievable things and finally makes it back to England some 23 years later. It was really strange to read about the Europeans ending up as slaves (in addition to black slaves). And there is interesting history of the Barbary Corsairs taking people from the coastal areas of various European countries...and of course, the aristocracy in England and other places did not really work hard to get the people back, however, some did finally get their freedom. But many lived out their lives in slavery. This book is definitely worth the money! If you are looking for a really interesting book to read - this is the one!!
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