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The White Slaves Of Barbary


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Much attention and condemnation has been directed towards the tragedy of the African slave trade , which took place between the 16 th and the 19 th centuries. However, another equally despicable trade in humans was taking place around the same time in the Mediterranean.  It is estimated that up to 1.25 million Europeans were enslaved by Barbary corsairs , and their lives were just as pitiful as their African counterparts. They have come to be known as the white slaves of Barbary.


Slavery is one of the oldest trades known to man. We can first find records of the slave trade dating back to The Code of Hammurabi in Babylon in the 18th century BCE. People from virtually every major culture, civilization, and religious background have made slaves of their own and enslaved other peoples. However, comparatively little attention has been given to the prolific slave trade that was carried out by pirates, or corsairs, along the Barbary coast (as it was called by Europeans at the time), in what is now Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, beginning around 1600 AD.


Anyone travelling in the Mediterranean at the time faced the real prospect of being captured by the Corsairs and taken to Barbary Coast cities and being sold as slaves. 


However, not content with attacking ships and sailors, the corsairs also sometimes raided coastal settlements in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, England, Ireland, and even as far away as the Netherlands and Iceland.  They landed on unguarded beaches, and crept up on villages in the dark to capture their victims.  Almost all the inhabitants of the village of Baltimore, in Ireland, were taken in this way in 1631.  As a result of this threat, numerous coastal towns in the Mediterranean were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants until the 19 th century.

The Sacking of Baltimore

The raiding of the coastal village of Baltimore on Ireland’s South West coast is one of the more horrific acts performed by the Barbary corsairs.  At 2.00am on 20 June, 1631, over 200 corsairs armed with muskets, iron bars and sticks of burning wood landed on the shore of Baltimore and silently spread out, waiting at the front doors of the cottages along the shoreline and the homes in the main village. When a signal was given, they simultaneously charged into the homes, pulling the sleeping inhabitants from their beds. Twenty men, 33 women and 54 children were dragged into ships and began the long voyage back to Algiers. 


Upon arrival, the citizens of Baltimore were taken to slave pens before being paraded before prospective buyers, chained and nearly naked. Men were typically used for labor and women as concubines, while children were often raised as Muslims, eventually forming part of the slave corps within the Ottoman army. 


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I'm Sicilian don't get me started on those Moorish bastards

Slaves and other lower-class residents made up a big part of the population of the city of Rome around the 1st century AD.

The sad thing till this day slavery is alive and well. The Germans used slave labor during the Holocaust, and though slavery is illegal everywhere, we have simply changed the name and driven it underground. Now we call it human trafficking.

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As Americans we're all slaves to the grid we built in the early half of the last century which Tesla would have argued against building. 


Without the automotive industry, say maglev subways, solar harnessed power, we would not have to worry about running out of coal and natural gas. There are certain systems that can be put in place, that are not being put in place simply because pricing anything would be difficult if they were. 

That is true and it also can be said we are all slaves to the banking cartel otherwise known as debt slaves.

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From Sumerian Gods to Modern Day: The History of Slavery:


The obligation of slavery is as old as the invention of agriculture. As humans engineered ways to harvest crops and learned how to domesticate and control animals, they began to settle in communities. Some of these communities grew, birthing towns, some of which became large cities. People gathered together and, due to their newfound stability, were able to amass food, acquire possessions and supplies, and establish trade. All of these factors made life easier and more comfortable. Yet, with this comfort comes power and greed, and people begin wanting more of both. A hierarchy is formed and leaders are chosen by the group. Laws are established and enforced, and people begin to follow their chosen leaders—even so far as to pay them tributes. Borrowing and debt are thus introduced into societies that once only knew day-to-day survival. A bad harvest may cause one man to borrow food from a neighbor in order to feed his family through the year, hoping that the following harvest will not only reap enough to feed his own family but good enough for him to pay back his acquired debt. As time progresses, varying occupations emerge, as do arts and written languages. Commerce is introduced between towns and cities. All this occurs while governments grow in power and privilege—and focus. Land becomes a commodity, and one that people are willing to fight for. All of these factors have then created the means for slavery to develop.


Slavery can be defined as one person bound to another person or household through servitude. Chattel slavery is the term used regarding slaves as commodities to be bought and sold, and is often the definition we use for slavery in general. For many of us, we hear the word ‘slave’ and our minds immediately evoke the more recent Atlantic slave trade when Africans were sold to the New World beginning in the early seventeenth century. We specially recall those sold to the colonies of the North. Yet, we must remember that slavery did not begin—or end—here, and that not all slaves over the course of humanity fit this definition.


Slavery in the Ancient World


We can first find records of slavery dating back to The Code of Hammurabi in Babylon in the 18 th century BCE, though it can be traced to almost every ancient civilization. Records from the Mycenaean period (Bronze Age) in Greece attest to how integral slavery was at the time. In fact, it is estimated that the majority of Athenian citizens owned at In the ancient world, many of these slaves were acquired as spoils of war. For many of the foreign defeated,  a life could be spent—and ended—in sexual servitude to an individual, temple or even worse, a barracks, or to hard manual labor, such as working in mines, toiling in construction, or fighting to the death in arenas for the free public’s entertainment. These slaves could be traded and sold, typically had no rights and no future, and were, by definition, chattel slaves.


But some slaves have, as history has shown us, been allowed some menial rights. Babylonian slaves, for example, were allowed to own property. Ancient Egyptian citizens could inherit a form of slavery that was closely related to purpose and profession—a serfdom, so to speak, where the slave was born into a household that lived on and went with the land or property. One did not choose his profession so much as he was born into it, such as a carpenter, for the lord of the land. The level of servitude in such instances varied, and this life allowed more freedoms than other forms of slavery (though a man, woman, or child could still be traded or sold). In Sparta, a state of Greece known for its skilled warriors, most slaves were neighboring peoples conquered by the army. In one sense, these slaves continued life as normal; individuals lived in their own homes on their own land and continued many daily operations as they normally would—under Spartan masters.


Other slaves also retained some rights and privileges. For example, slaves who served in domestic positions and offices in Greece were often able to attain some status and favor, even though they were not free men. The owners could show favor on these servants, who were in positions to gain the trust and confidence of their masters.

Other forms of slavery included punishment for an unlawful act and selling oneself into slavery to pay off a debt, usually against the person’s will. It can also be said that European serfdom, remnants of which can be found today, was a form of slavery.


Slavery as International Trade   

The Arab-run slave trade flourished as early as the 8 th century, and was active along Arabia, East Africa, and the Indian Ocean. In fact, slaves proved to be a profitable business in the early middle ages and were sold by Jewish merchants (as early of the 5 th century CE) and Muslim merchants, as well as Viking raiders. In fact, the term ‘slave’ originates from the word sklabos, or Slav , of which the Islamic world was known as a great importer .  Slavs were commonly traded in Central Europe and the East, while the Vikings traded the English, the Irish, and the Scottish in the West.


Mediterranean and Atlantic merchants also dealt in the slave trade, some almost exclusively. The Venetian and Genoese were leaders of the trade in the late middle ages, and were in league with a Mongolean leader. Many of their slaves came from Russian provinces.

In 1441, the Portuguese opened the African slave market when they began selling slaves they brought to Portugal.  The Spanish, the Dutch, the British and the Irish all attributed wealth to their economies through the slave trade. While the Portuguese and the Spanish are attributed with the establishment of the Atlantic slave trade, the British became a main exporter of Africans after 1600.

In 1792, Denmark-Norway became the first European country to ban slavery, though it had been abolished in Iceland since 1117.


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