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The History of Slavery, Part 3: Christian Slaves and Muslim Masters—Barbary Pirates in the Mediterranean, 1500-1800

July 26, 2018
00:00 01:00:35
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As the trans-Atlantic slave trade from sub-Saharan Africa to the Americas began to grow in the 1500s, there was another slave trade that operated on an even larger scale in the same time period. It was the capture of Europeans by north-African Muslims. Barbary Pirates enslaved an estimated 1 million Europeans in the period from 1500 to 1800.

Enslavement was a real possibility for anyone who traveled in the Mediterranean or who lived along the shores in places like Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, and even as far north as England and Iceland. In 1632, pirates captured the Irish city of Baltimore. They and others were snatched from their homes, taken in chains to the slave markets of Algiers, and sold to the highest bidder. Some spent the rest of their lives rowing galleys. Others toiled in quarries or on farms. Attractive women were sent to harems and became a pasha's concubine.

This episode looks at a little-known chapter in the history of slavery. Although few know the stories of these captives, the threat of piracy on the Mediterranean had a huge impact on the Western World. Thomas Jefferson developed the U.S. navy to eliminate the Barbary Threat. Miguel de Cervantes spent years in North Africa. Even John Smith of Pocahontas fame was a slave in Istanbul.

Learn about this strange period in history and how it all came to an end in the early 1800s.

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Meet Your Host
Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to
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