WHITE GOLD: THE WHITE SLAVE MARKET OF THE BARBARY CORSAIRS

FINE ART BOURSE:

Photo: Artist Otto Pilny

WHILE MOST OF US ARE ALL TOO FAMILIAR WITH THE HORRORS OF THE BLACK SLAVE TRADE, MOST OF US NEVER HEARD OF THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE WHERE OVER A MILLION WHITE EUROPEANS WERE TAKEN INTO SLAVERY? YES, WE WERE QUITE SHOCKED WHEN WE DISCOVERED THIS AS WELL.

The Barbary Coast, as it was known, lay along the shores of North Africa, and predominantly included the ports of Salé, Rabat, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. The name was derived from the Berbers who inhabited the region, and Barbary corsairs (pirates) roamed the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, with impunity, to the point where at their peak, in the 17th century, many Mediterranean coastal villages in Spain, France and Italy were totally abandoned. Race, religion or colour was of no relevance.

What comes as a surprise is that many raids by these corsairs took place in Northern Europe, including coastal villages in Devon and Cornwall, England, as well as in Ireland, Scandinavia and as far north as Iceland. One particular incident of note in 1631 saw virtually all inhabitants of the Irish village of Baltimore captured and taken into slavery. While the men would often become galley slaves, leading a pitiful and short life, women, unsurprisingly, were sold predominantly for sex.

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