Wednesday 8 May 2024

White Slaves of North Africans

This is a misconception that North Africa after Islamisation only enslaved black Africans. Between 711 and 1492, about 1 milllion white Europeans were taken as slaves by North Africans in their conquest and occupation of the Iberian peninsula and wars against Europeans. Between 1500 and 1800, more than another 1.25 million white Europeans were captured and enslaved. North Africans were called Berbers as an insult - from a Greek root meaning barbarians. They were also called Saracens.

So recent European dna in North Africa is partly due to the contribution of a slave social strata to their gene pool.

These numbers are nowhere close to the amount of slaves traded through the Trans-Sahara trade and the Indian Ocean trade over the last 13 centuries.

Where did North Africa’s white slaves come from?


“Sultan Moulay Ismail’s slaves came from virtually every corner of Europe. There were Frenchmen and Dutchmen held in Meknes, as well as Greeks, Portuguese and Italians. A few came from Ireland and Scandinavia; some were from as far afield as Russia and Georgia. But the largest group was formed by the sultan’s Spanish slaves, which usually numbered several thousand. These men and women were also the most miserable. Many had been seized more than a decade earlier, and some of the younger captives had spent the greater part of their lives in Meknes. The most wretched of all was the handful of survivors who had been seized during the siege of Mamora. The stories of their capture – which had occurred in 1681, thirty-five years earlier – would haunt all who were brought to Meknes in the summer and autumn of 1716.”

Men served as farm hands, builders, labourers, government officials, guards, and miners. The status of slaves were determined by the status of their masters. With the slaves of sultans commanding the most fear.

Women served as domestic help, farm hands and concubines. In this way, some Moroccans had European concubines as ancestors. Slaves who bore children were entitled to freedom and so were their children under Islamic law, although the community would continue to remember the origins of such freed slaves.

Non-Muslims slaves were regularly tortured for being “infidels” so sometimes Europeans converted to Islam in order to receive better treatment. Converts were said by other Europeans to have “gone Turk” if they adopted Islam.



Ekin, Des (2006). The Stolen Village : Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates. Dublin: The O'Brien Press. ISBN 9781847171047. OCLC 817925909.

Davis, Robert C. (2004). Christian slaves, Muslim masters : white slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 (Pbk. ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781403945518. OCLC 56443764.

Adams, Robert (2005). The narrative of Robert Adams, a barbary captive. Adams, Charles Hansford, 1954-. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521603737. OCLC 57577347.

Gerber, Jane S. (1992). The Jews of Spain : a history of the Sephardic experience. Mazal Holocaust Collection., Rogers D. Spotswood Collection. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0029115744. OCLC 26503593.

"When Europeans Were Slaves: Research Suggests White Slavery Was Much More Common Than Previously Believed". Ohio State News. 2004-03-08. Archived from the original on 2018-01-22. Retrieved 2017-10-27.

The Thomas Jefferson Papers - America and the Barbary Pirates - (American Memory from the Library of Congress).

Charles Sumner (17 February 1847). White Slavery in the Barbary States: A Lecture Before the Boston Mercantile Library Association. W. D. Ticknor.

Giles Milton, White Gold

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