View Full Version : Moslem Slave Trade in the Mediterranean

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007, 01:40 PM
For centuries Muslim slavehunters hunted Christians in the Mediterranean Sea. More than 1 million victims, an US scientist exposed, were deported to slave-markets in Northern Africa.

Covered by the darkness of night the hunters stalked without making any noise. The people of the village were rounded up and brought abord of the ships waiting off the shore under hits. Mostly the ghastly business was done soon after it was started. Under deck the captured where whining in dark sheds - the left behind dogs were barking at the coast.

From the beginning 15th century on up to the 18th century the Mediterranean Sea was a sea of fear for Christian adjacent states, because Muslim slavehunters coming from Northern Africa scoured the sea in search for their Christian prey. Thousands of inhabitants of villages near the coast in Italy, France, Spain were made slaves. Farmers and workers disappeared from the fields, fishermen were caught during their work. For centuries inhabitants of Mediterranean islands scanned horizont with fear. Even the Atlantic regions weren´t save. North African Corsairs roamed the shores of Portugal, The Channel and the Irish Sea. In 1627 even 400 Icelanders were deported, having not been aware in what danger they were in their cold home. The dimensions of Mediterranean slave trade was vastly ignored by historians. There were no exact numbers of victims. This dark chapter of Med. history was forgotten due to the European Imperialism and colonial policy during the 19th and 20 century, having made victims become violators.

Cautious estimations about the number of captured were made, in all only a few thousand, so experts presumed, were captured by Muslim slave-hunters. Recently an US historian investiagated th extend thorough. "Much of what has been written this far procures the impression this problem would not have been serious for Europe", Robert Davis of Ohio State University, explains. "What a mistake!" Davis sieted sources documentating the trade of slaves in the Corsair strongholds Algier, Tunis and Tripolis. He investigated the annual number of slave workers having died, fled or were returned after ransom was payed. Those people needed to be replaced with fresh humans - this number was the base for his sum of victims. His surprising result: between 1530 and 1780, one million, but more likely 1.25 mio. slaves were brought to the slavemarkets in Northern Africa - shorn bald and welded in iron-chains. Between 1530 and 1580 300.000 European slaves were captured by the Corsairs of Algier alone. Davis: "We have lost the feeling how great the threat was for those living in the Mediterranean area". In the slave-hunter´s metropoles hunting Christians to enslave them was a large industry.

After wide performed marauds with dozens of galleys and thousands of men under weapons "it rained Christians in Algier" a contemporary noted. Successful Corsair captains presented their bounty in a sort of triumphal procession. Most victims were of male gender, but after succcessful marauds into towns and villages, captured women and children literally were washed into the slavemarkets. In the mid 17th century, when Med. coasts were better guarded, Muslim slave-hunters changed their tactics, instead of widespread assaults they used the method of "stiching with needles", quick attacks combined with tricks and perfidy - they scouted shores with captured fishingboats or aproached shores under wrong flags and signs. To avoid Christian rower-slaves shouting, they were gagged with cork which they always had to carry around their neck like a relics-bag. On open sea Muslim pirates also were masters of cunning and ambushing: they sent renegades in European-style clothing on deck, converted brought up Christian ships into slave-hunterboats and attacked out of the usual season. Lurking behind an island or ledge, in a fogscreen or in the early dawn- this were the Corsairs' preferred tactics. France and Spain lost thousands of ships. The mighty Royal Navy had to concede the loss of 466 English and Scottish vessels between 1606 and 1609. Even the heavily protected galleys of the Maltese Knights were not secure when attacked by the boldest.

For Corsair captains it was anything but difficult recruiting crews. Instead of a salar they got a share of the bounty. Even rowerslaves were participated at low level in some cases, in some cases the sum was enough to buy back freedom.

Slaves, jailed under deck, had to face an usure fate, wealthy among them, promising high ransoms, were raffeled by speculators, investing their money like stock brokers at the stock market. Most captured ended up as human work force in privare households, or as public slaves in the road building, agriculture or salt-mines. Not far away from Algier, the US scientist found out, hundreds of Christian slaves had to move 20 to 40 tons heavy blocks of stone on sleights from the stone pit to the 2 miles far away port to build and repair piers and fortresses. Wood had to be whacked to build new pirate ships in the hinterland and brought to the dockyards. Physical heavy work - lasting from the dawn to dusk, the fate of those Christian slaves was as hard as that of black comrades in suffer in America. Clothed only in loincloths, unlucky slaves had to row the Buccaneer galleys, without any protection against their flayers and the heat of the sun. An bestialic stench hurried ahead of the galleys as the enchained slaves had to do their nature´s call where they were. Because of deprivation they always were at the brink of delirium. Many captured Christians converted into Islam to reliefe their fate. The so-called renegades no longer had to toil at galleys or stone-pits, but still they were held in thrall.

Captured shipyard-carpenters were treated good because their skills and expertice were needed to copy the Christians more sophisticated techniques to compede with their ships, especially in the early 17th cent. The rate of mortality among Christian slaves was approximated 20%, higher by elderly, women and children, Davis cherishes those not dying because of bad nutrition or hard work died because of pest epidemics infesting the slave ports. Out of the 400 Icelanders, for example, after 8 years in slavery only 5 dozen were still alive.
In the 18th century European states and Christian orders made efforts to buy back slaves held in Muslim work camps. "But until then for victims there was a much higher chance to die in prison than to get released into freedom", the US historian says. Only few signs of the centuries lasting human trafficking in North African towns remained. No slave markets and prison camps remained, except in Morroco. Almost nothing reminds of the hundreds of thousands of Europeans having vegetated in former Corsair strongholds, having been buried outside in anonymous graves. Only one feature of the victims remained: Back in the 18th century travellers wondered about the fair skin of many inhabitants. Generations of White females had to give birth to children of their Muslim masters, and thousands of renegades had children with native women. Both together swept lots of European blood into the local gene-pool.

Source: Günther Stockinger, Der Spiegel (http://www.spiegel.de)

I translated the original text "See der Angst" from German into English, so blame me for eventual errors...