Sunday, 1 July 2012

Most Europeans lack any in-depth knowledge of history. But the pop history conveyed through the mass media gives them a strong but vague sense of guilt about the Europe's past overseas empires. The sense of guilt isn't usually articulated with any precision, making it difficult to refute. But certainly the average European probably goes round with a sentiment something like this: "We oppressed the poor Africans for centuries, and only in modern times have we started to expiate that tremendous burden of guilt." 

 The reality is very different. Most of Africa was only incorporated into European empires in the last two decades of the 19th century. Those countries regained their independence in the 1950s and 60s. So, in total, for most African countries the period of "imperial oppression" lasted no more than 70 years. And during this period of terrible oppression, somehow the African birthrates managed to skyrocket and most other indicators of national well-being increased considerably. North Africa had been incorporated into the French empire a bit earlier, following the French invasion of 1830.

It was this invasion that brought an end to centuries of North African predation upon Europeans in the form of piracy and slaving expeditions. To the average indoctrinated European today, slavery was a race-based phenomenon of African negroes wrenched from their homeland to toil in American cotton fields. The fact of Muslim slavery upon both Africans and Europeans is blotted from the historical record. Recently, I've been reading Robert G. Davis' book, "Holy War and Human Bondage", which tells the tale of the Muslim enslavement of Europeans. The book makes it clear that the scale of this enslavement was vast, not as large as African slavery, but certainly in the same ballpark.
As we have seen, however, it is reasonable to claim that something like a quarter of the slave population in North Africa had to be replaced every year. We can also be fairly certain that the great majority of fresh slaves were procured through capture (in the Balkans and Caucasus parents sometimes sold their children into slavery). Thus, keeping the slave population of Barbary stable at around 30,000 men and women would have required around 8,500 new captures a year. Over the course of the century from 1580-1680, this would have added up to around 850,000 slaves all told. If we include likely figures from the first part of the 16th century (when slaving was rampant, but slave counts are lacking) and those from the 18th (when slaving declined sharply, though never stopped) we find that estimate growing by a good 20 percent or 30 percent to a total that easily exceeds 1 million, probably 1.25 million all told, between 1500 and 1800.

Such a figure is only the roughest of estimates. At best, it offers us a range, a sense of scale, nothing like the actuarial tallies that have been worked out for the African slave trade. That is not really the point, though. Even rough calculations can make it clear that Mediterranean faith slaving was not some minor phenomenon, the sort of petty diversion for people at the time as it has become for many historians today. Rather, it was a huge business, a vital element in the North African economy and a constant wound in the social body of Christendom.
Including Muslim enslavement of Christians outside of North Africa, the author arrives at an estimate of 2 million Christian enslaved during this period.
Over a somewhat longer span of time (1500 to 1850), close to 800,000 Black African slaves were taken to mainland Spanish America, 400,000 to what would later become the United States, 4 million to the Caribbean, and nearly 4.5 million to Brazil and Guiana. In all, then, race slavery, those Black Africans taken to the Americas, outweighed the faith slavery that characterized the Mediterranean, but perhaps not by as much as might have been expected.
Throughout the pre-modern era, virtually all Europeans living in coastal regions of the Mediterranean had to live in fear of Muslim slave raids. Slavery and piracy formed the essence of the North African economy. There was almost nothing else.

During much of the 16th century, the Turkish/Algerian fleets were able to set entire armies of 5,000 or even 10,000 men ashore in Christian territory. Fanning out into the often poorly protected countryside, they burned villages, sacked churches and monasteries, and kept on taking prisoners until "they had filled their galleys with slaves almost to the point of foundering." In those days, with so many European captives pouring into the slave markets of Algiers and Tunis, the raiders used to say that it was "raining Christians in Algiers" and that you could "swap a Christian for an onion."7 Small wonder such tall tales were making the rounds, considering the hauls brought back from some of the raids. In 1544 the Algerians sailed into the Bay of Naples and carried off 7,000 men, women, and children; in 1554, men known only as "the Turks" emptied Vieste, in Italian Calabria, of its 6,000 residents; in a single raid on Granada in 1566, the combined forces of Algerians and Moroccans made away with upwards of 4,000 Spaniards.

So Europeans were preyed upon by North Africans for centuries. The intervening period of European imperial rule was just a tiny historical blip.

...After its historically brief resurgence in the Napoleonic years, slaving on the Barbary coast was essentially wiped out in 1830, with the French conquest of Algiers. Then began the long process of forgetting that brings us up to the present day. For many, in North Africa and in Europe, a century of colonial rule seemed to balance the books with what had gone before, settling the moral debts run up by 300 years of corsairs, slave galleys, chain gangs, and harems. Finally, it was as if all this had never existed.

And now Europeans are once again being preyed on by North Africans. For example, last week it was revealed that 44% of the inmates in Belgian prisons are foreigners, 1 in 10 Moroccan (10.7%) and 1 in 20 Algerian (5.4%).
Source (

In the context of the centuries of Muslim slavery and piracy, this North African crime wave is not a new phenomenon. It is a resumption of the standard historical pattern.

And the North Africans are still practising slavery today. Here is an extract from the "Trafficking in Persons" report recently published by the US State Department. 

Morocco is a source, destination, and transit country for men,
women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and
sex traficking. Some Moroccan girls as young as six or seven
years old from rural areas are recruited to work as child maids
in cities and often experience conditions of forced labor, such
as nonpayment of wages, threats, and physical or sexual
abuse, and restrictions on movement; however, due to greater
sensitization of the issue, the incidence of child maids has
decreased dramatically from 1999 to 2010. Some Moroccan
boys experience forced labor as apprentices in the artisan and
construction industries and in mechanic shops. Men, women,
and an increasing number of children primarily from subSaharan Africa and South Asia enter Morocco voluntarily but illegally with the assistance of smugglers; once in Morocco, some of the women and older girls are coerced into prostitution
or, less frequently, forced into domestic service. Some female
mig rants  in Oujda,  par ticularly Niger ians, were  forced  into
prostitution once they reached Europe. Sometimes, female
migrants are transported to other cities, including Casablanca,
and then sold into prostitution networks.

Source: Trafficking in Persons 2012


alas said...

I also found it interesting that according to Geert Wilders in his new book, that the Muslims in the Arab world long ago took a great many African slaves, millions in fact, just as the Europeans did. And what is more, the very reason why this is not commented upon nearly as much as our own exploitation of Africans, is because there is little evidence in the Arab world, in such poor conditions, and horrendous practices (chopping male slaves genitelea off), the African ex-slave population, for example, in Iraq is tiny, because of such low and even negative growth over the centuries.

Anonymous said...


You cant blame Muslims for practising slavery, when all they are doing is follow the example of Mohammed.

Once gain we see that Muslims are actually the victims.

Anonymous said...


At the time of the Wilberforce centenary, I found out that most of the African slaves were not caught by Arabs or even Europeans, but sold by African chiefs. These were prisoners of incessant tribal warfare. The chiefs found that it was more profitable to sell their prisoners to Arabs, who then sold some of them to Europeans, then to simply kill them.

Africa and China deserve each other

There is a myth of Africa beloved of Western liberals as a sort of Utopia in which a continent of happy but simple natives played their musical instruments, drank millet beer and sat around generally loving one another in an idyllic rusticana. Into this Eden came the rapacious European, who enslaved them, stole from them and infected them with syphilis. So pervasive has this distortion become that a Prime Minister of the recent past actually apologised for it. Let me make one thing very clear; of the 14m Africans transported as part of the Atlantic slave trade, only perhaps a very few tens of thousands were enslaved by Europeans. Almost the entire 14m were captured and enslaved by their fellow Africans. And this was nothing new; before the 15th century, African slaves had found a ready and lucrative market in North Africa and Arabia, and before this the Pharoahs were buying them by the million. Enslaving and selling your neighbour has been an integral part of African culture since Mitochondrial Eve climbed out of the rift valley. What Europe brought them between the 15th and mid 19th century was a massive new market for a commodity they had in abundance.

Slavery has been endemic in the whole world. In most cases it was invasion and occupation. For thousands of years, Europe and Asia was invaded, and the defeated were made slaves. It was simply war booty. Africa was never a target for invasion, as there was nothing worth looting. In any case, Africans themselves were selling each other to any bidder. It was a buyers market - always was.

One of the scribes of Pharoah writes that the main export of Africa was slaves and animals. Note the word "export". It implies that the Africans were exporting their own people into slavery.

Its a sensitive topic, and is bound to hurt feelings all round.


sheik yer'mami said...

This is a great article. If only this (reality based) stuff would be taught in universities instead of condemnation of colonialism and self-hatred!

However, some of it is also deeply flawed, like

"in the Balkans and Caucasus parents sometimes sold their children into slavery"- that is absurd on its face since it is well known that the Ottomans collected the sons of the Balkan Christians as Jannissaries and the girls for the harems, annually, in lieu of the jiziya.

In the posting above it is claimed that "most of the African slaves were not caught by Arabs or even Europeans, but sold by African chiefs.'

That is pure speculation. Arabs have been raiding Kraals and selling black African slaves at the time of Jesus, 400 years before they became Muslims! Sure there were some black African tribes involved in the slave trade, but they lacked the logistics and only the Arabs had the idea to trade slaves over a wide area.

There is more, there is always more, and so little time....

Anonymous said...

Another good book on the subject is:
"Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters - White Slavery In the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy" same author Robert Davis.

An article based on it:

and some more on the subject:

Anonymous said...

For another good account, albeit in a work of fiction, of the slave trade -- this time in the 1840's -- see George MacDonald Fraser's "Flash for Freedom."

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