Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Friday, March 12, 2004

African Pirates and Slave Traders

North African pirates abducted and enslaved more than one million Europeans between 1530 and 1780 in a series of raids that depopulated coastal towns from Sicily to Cornwall, according to new research.
Thousands of white Christians were seized every year to work as galley slaves, labourers and concubines for Muslim overlords in what is today Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya, it is claimed. Scholars have long known of the slave raids on Europe. But American historian Robert Davis has calculated that the total number captured -- although small compared with the 12-million Africans shipped to the Americas in later years -- was far higher than previously recognised. His new book, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800, concluded that one million to 1,25-million ended up in bondage. Professor Davis's unorthodox methodology split historians over whether his estimates were plausible but they welcomed any attempt to fill a gap in the little-known story of Africans subjugating Europeans.