The stories we read in today’s headlines of Islamic terrorism against innocent civilians and slavery under Islamic regimes are nothing new. Just as the current Islamic regime in Sudan enslaves it’s southern Christians, and gives them the choice of “convert or die,” the Islamic armies that overran the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe gave their captives the simple choice of conversion, death, or slavery. Two hundred years ago American sailors sailing the Mediterranean faced the same choice when their unprotected ships were captured by the Islamic “Barbary Pirates” of North Africa.
Slaves in Barbary fell into two broad categories. The ‘public slaves’ belonged to the ruling pasha, who by right of rulership could claim an eighth of all Christians captured by the corsairs, and buy all the others he wanted at reduced prices. These slaves were housed in large prisons known as baños (baths), often in wretchedly overcrowded conditions. They were mostly used to row the corsair galleys in the pursuit of loot (and more slaves) – work so strenuous that thousands died or went mad while chained to the oar.
During the winter these galeotti worked on state projects – quarrying stone, building walls or harbour facilities, felling timber and constructing new galleys. Each day they would be given perhaps two or three loaves of black bread – ‘that the dogs themselves wouldn’t eat’ – and limited water; they received one change of clothing every year. Those who collapsed on the job from exhaustion or malnutrition were typically beaten until they got up and went back to work. The pasha also bought most female captives, some of whom were taken into his harem, where they lived out their days in captivity. The majority, however, were purchased for their ransom value; while awaiting their release, they worked in the palace as harem attendants.
Many other slaves belonged to ‘private parties.’ Their treatment and work varied as much as their masters did. Some were well cared for, becoming virtual companions of their owners. Others were worked as hard as any ‘public’ slave, in agricultural labour, or construction work, or selling water or other goods around town on his (or her) owner’s behalf. They were expected to pay a proportion of their earnings to their owner – those who failed to raise the required amount typically being beaten to encourage them to work harder.
Putting together such sources of attrition as deaths, escapes, ransomings, and conversions, Davis calculated that about one-fourth of slaves had to be replaced each year to keep the slave population stable, as it apparently was between 1580 and 1680. That meant about 8,500 new slaves had to be captured each year. Overall, this suggests nearly a million slaves would have been taken captive during this period. Using the same methodology, Davis has estimated as many as 475,000 additional slaves were taken in the previous and following centuries.
The result is that between 1530 and 1780 there were almost certainly 1 million and quite possibly as many as 1.25 million white, European Christians enslaved by the Muslims of the Barbary Coast.
The idea of white slavery, overshadowed by the unarguable brutality of centuries of the trade in black slaves, is now mainly dismissed as the stuff of Victorian novels, while the “Barbary corsairs” became pantomime figures. The terror of the pirate raids remains a vivid folk memory on Mediterranean islands, but it has largely been forgotten that they also raided as far north as the coast of Scotland, in search not of ships or gold but human booty.
However, academics are re-examining the subject, with startling results. Linda Colley’s recent book, Captives, draws together hundreds of accounts of capture by pirates, and the desperate pleas to parliament for help from those left behind.
In all likelihood, the ethical issue of 2008 won’t be Whitewater, the pardon of Hillary’s brothers’ clients, the FALN terrorist pardons designed to win her the Hispanic vote or the theft of White House china.
Indeed, the issue may post-date the publication of Podhoretz’s excellent book. It might turn out that the Emir of Dubai has funneled millions in income to the Clintons through billionaire Ron Burkle and the Yucaipa Corporation. Possibly the emerging connection between the budget items Hillary has earmarked in Congress and her campaign contributors will be fodder for the 2008 campaign. Or we may end up focusing on the almost total lack of legislative accomplishment during Hillary’s Senate tenure, including little more than renaming post offices or courthouses
Another book review in the Post, SCREAMING AT THE U.N., gets low marks for not being thorough enough,
Shawn does not tackle U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan with sufficient determination. Annan’s anti-U.S. bias over Iraq and his self-serving statements on the Oil-for-Food investigation, in which he has sought to exonerate himself from having insufficiently separated personal and professional interests, are subjects worthy of lengthier treatment.
Shawn’s lack of argument also means that he does not properly explain Chinese, French and Russian behavior over Iraq. The easy answer is that these countries were motivated by greed and were bribed by Saddam. Yet Iraq was about more than just money.
In Iraq, China, France and Russia could make their influence felt and be the dominant external powers, for once ousting American influence. Better still, they could inflict damage on the United States by proxy by undermining the sanctions and the American bid to contain Saddam.
Speaking of China, last night John Batchelor had Jed Babbin talking about Babbin’s new book, Showdown : Why China Wants War with the United States, a chilling look at China’s possible strategy. As regular readers of this blog know, I’m interested on the subject.
Today’s video, also via Maria,
Raid on the Reactor
In a lighter vein,
Last night was 24‘s season finale. Blogs4Bauer was watching.
As one of the commenters said, Jack Bauer joins cast of Prision Break.
It’ll be a long wait until January, 2007.
Update: Not Charles and Marty
In showbiz news, One hoped, for decency’s sake, that her trousers were made of sturdy stuff. Not a good review, but a good review, via Drudge.