- Series: Early Modern History
- Paperback: 280 pages
- Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 2003 edition (September 16, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1403945519
- ISBN-13: 978-1403945518
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 40 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #552,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800 (Early Modern History) Paperback – November 4, 2004
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'Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters is about a subject of immense importance, which has been strangely neglected...It is very well researched, and... at a time of unprecedented interest in racial slavery in America, it is interesting to read a crucial and informative preview to that subject.' - David Brion Davis, Yale University
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The trans-Atlantic trade in "blacks" was commercial, but for Arabs, memories of the Crusades and fury over expulsion from Spain in 1492 seem to have fueled an almost war-like Christian stealing campaign. For example; when pirates sacked Vieste in southern Italy in 1554, they took an astonishing 6,000 captives. Algerians took 7,000 slaves in the Bay of Naples in 1544, in a raid that drove the price of slaves so low it was said you could "swap a Christian for an onion."
Spain also suffered attacks. After a raid on Granada in 1566 netted 4,000 men, women, and children, it was said to be "raining Christians in Algiers". For every large-scale raid of this kind there would have been dozens of smaller ones. When Muslim corsairs came ashore, they made a point of desecrating churches, stealing church bells --- not just because the metal was valuable but also to silence the distinctive voice of Christianity. During frequent smaller raids, only a few ships would operate by stealth in the middle of the night so to catch people "in their beds". This practice gave rise to the modern-day Sicilian expression, pigliato dai turchi, or "taken by the Turks"... Meaning to be caught by surprise while asleep or distracted.
Some Arab pirates were formidable skilled blue-water sailors, and terrorized Christians up to 1000 miles away. During one account, a raid in the early 1600s occurred all the way to Iceland, netting nearly 400 captives. Throughout the 17th century, Arab pirates operated freely in British waters, even sailing up the Thames estuary to pick off prizes and raid coastal towns. By the mid-1600s the British were running a brisk trans-Atlantic trade in "blacks", but many British crewmen themselves became the property of Arab raiders.
"Bastinado" was a term for common punishment once in North Africa. It was tradition to parade newly-captured Christians through the streets, so people could jeer at them, and children could pelt them with refuse. At the slave market, men were made to jump about to prove they were not lame, and buyers often wanted them stripped naked again to see if they were healthy. This was also to evaluate the sexual value of both men and women; "white" concubines had a high value, and all the slave capitals had a flourishing homosexual underground. Buyers who hoped to make a quick profit on a fat ransom examined earlobes for signs of piercing, which was an indication of wealth. It was also common to check a captive's teeth to see if he was likely to survive on a tough slave diet. It is well known that malnutrition, overcrowding, overwork, brutal punishment, and epidemics of epidemics of plague usually wiped out 20 to 30 percent of the "white" slaves. It was also common to shave the heads and beards of public slaves as an added humiliation during a period when head and facial hair were an important part of a man's identity. It was also common to strip men naked, both to examine their clothes for sewn-in valuables and to see if any circumcised Jews were masquerading as gentiles.
It was common to bring the freed "white" slaves home, and march them through city streets in big celebrations. These parades became one of the most characteristic urban spectacles of the period, and had a strong religious orientation. Sometimes the slaves marched in their old slave rags to emphasize the torments they had suffered; sometimes they wore special white costumes to symbolize rebirth. According to contemporary records, many freed slaves were never quite right after their ordeals, especially if they had spent many years in captivity.
So, why is there so little interest in Mediterranean slavery while scholars perpetually focus entirely on "black" slavery? Perhaps, "white" slaves with "non-white" masters simply does not fit the master narrative of European imperialism.