Web shopping

This time, Brad Delong has overdone his geeky self (again): his latest work on issu.

The Guardian runs a ridiculous story on “White Slavery in North Africa”, based on Robert Davis’ new book, I’d like to comment on it:

  • It is not a racial issue, the “slaves” where never defined as white but as Christians. Converting to Islam was often enough to set one free. In Europe, Muslims were used in the galleys, including former Christians who had become Muslims.
  • The term of slave is not appropriated since unlike those in Rome or in the America, those who were taken away could and often were bought back by their family, their government or charitable institutions. We should define them as captive.
  • The impact on Europe may have been important, specially in the most exposed areas (Malta, Southern Spain, etc.) but then again, the Christian powers themselves used Christian bonded rawmen, for instance the Genoan admiral Andrea Doria used the prisoners from several Spanish and Italian jails.
  • Finally, the journalist of the Guardian should learn how to read since I suspect Robert Davis never said that eastern Europeans weren’t Christians (they’re not Catholic, but they are Christian), nor did he described the jails the captives were parked in – the baños – as… baths!

And Leonardo Monastero finds yet another über cool website.


4 Responses to Web shopping

  1. Emil says:

    I am not a fan of the Guardian, but:

    – kinda is a racial issue, since there is no much talk about white slavery

    – white slaves in Maghreb, Turkey, Egypt were used for work, and were “brought back” after being bought from their employer, if not from a slave market

    – Crimeean tartars were not Christian, and lived in Eastern Europe; Circassians were also in Eastern Europe (NW of the Black Sea, still in Europe), and were not Christian.

    – “baña” is “bath”

    Fact is there was a lot more “white” slavery: Caffa was _the_ capital of slave trade until the Russians dismantled the Tartar state in Crimea in the XVIIIth century: during a single campaign in Moldavia and Wallachia in the XVIIth century the Tartars took over 140000 slaves, which were sold in Caffa and were sent to Anatolia and the Middle East. Slaves were captured and traded in the Eastern Mediterranean up to the middle of the XIXth century: Samuel Baker, the guy that found one of the sources of Nile, bought/rescued his second wife (Hungarian girl, supposedly kidnapped by the merchants) from a slave market in Vidin, near the Danube, in 1858; prisoners captured in the Archipelago during the Green insurrection of 1821 were sold as laborers when not executed on the spot. Turkish (Turks are white, right ?) and Tartar prisoners of war were used as laborers in Hungary, Transylvania, Wallachia or Moldavia until their submission to the Porte, and Tartars captives were used as laborers up to the XVIIIth century.

    Eastern Mediterranean saw quite a brisk trade in white slaves :) For XIXth century anecdotes search google books for “slave Turkey”, and you’ll find quite a few descriptions of slavery, regime of slaves, slave markets etc.

  2. barracho says:

    Uh, to begin with “slave” comes from “Slav”–the ethnic group, because for a long time they were the basic community from which Rome got its slaves.

    The fact that you could be bought back was also possible in Rome … a slave is a human used a property. Indeed, the notion of purchasing ones freedom is present in almost every slave system known to man historically. So yeah, that works fine.

    Indeed, in Christianity in 5th century AD Ireland becoming a Christian meant you had to free your Christian slaves … hardly works out that way in practice in the long term tho … see the Ottomans.

    Beyond that, the black chattel slavery out of Africa was founded by Muslims, via the slave market in Zanzibar … and even today many blacks who visit Arab countries are referred to in Arabic as “slave.”

    So enough of the PC BS, already.

  3. Ben says:

    @ Emil and Barracho,

    Thanks for your involvement in the blog but I absolutely don’t agree with you.

    1. It is not a racial issue, if anything because numerous Muslim pirates were the infamous renegados, originally Christian who had renounced their faith and turned corsairs for the Barbary regencies. As much as a third of the population of Sale (in Morocco) and several kings of Algiers were born and bred in Europe. It is not a white v. non white story, it’s a Christian v. Muslim issue.

    2. The bulk of the “eastern European” in question if memory serves were from Greece and Romania, so Christians. Besides the issue at end here is limited to the Maghreb, Egypt and the Near East are another story.

    3. It is unlikely that the Slavs were the most important providers of bond labour to Rome since they arrived in Europe after the fall of the Empire. On the other hand they soon became the most important providers of slaves for Europe and noticeably for Al Andalus (see for instance “Radhanite” in wikipedia).

    4. The main difference between the Roman system and the one at play in Barbary is the fact that after years of labour the slave could save money and buy himself out. In North Africa, your family, country or the Catholic church were expected to buy you back. If you take the case of Cervantes who got caught by the pirates, he does nothing for days, he is in some sort of jail waiting to be free by the friars or the ambassador of the king. In no slave-based system do you see thousands of slaves lay idle for months. That’s not to say that the captives never ever worked, many did, but the base of the system is closer from a large kidnapping operation for ransom that what we usually attach to slavery.

    5. The baños weren’t baths (why would you put the captives in baths?), it is assumed that the first one was set on the location of an old bath house. Different

  4. Emil says:

    Slavery was not a racial issue, since the concept of “race” is quite modern and quite West-European. “Race” is important for the current debate about slavery.

    Memory can’t serve in pointing to Greece and “Romania”, unless by “Romania” you mean the eastern Roman empire. “Romania”, the modern state, exists only from around 1860. You probably remember the custom of forcibly recruiting members of the bureaucracy or the army by taking Christian children away from their parents. The real slaves did not get Janissary training: they withered away in mines or on the galleys.

    Cervantes was spared and kept alive and relatively comfortable for a reward, but Cervantes was a “de” with hope for a nice ransom, and was a cripple to boot. The men and women kidnapped from Davon could hope only to get posh jobs in the fields or the harem, the other option being exported to the salt mines.

    The bulk of the white slaves did not come from Greece or Romania, but from the Caucasus and the plains north of it. Slaves where taken as war captives in tens of thousands from Austria, Poland and Russia, too, but constant supply of slaves existed only from the areas I mentioned: “Circassian” (Muslim) and “Georgian” (Christian) were brands names in the slave trade for hundreds of years … yeah, a bit of “racial” labeling, except not on the lines one would expect.

    The “mild” Turkish slavery is the creation of Brits looking for allies against the French or the Russians. Domestic slavery was milder, but there was a lot more than that.

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