Barbary slave trade  

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The Barbary Slave Trade refers to the slave markets which flourished on the Barbary Coast, or modern day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Western Libya between the 16th and 19th centuries. These markets prospered while the states were nominally under Ottoman rule, but in reality were mostly autonomous. Although the slave markets were filled by peoples from many places, they were distinct from other slave markets because they also sold European slaves, acquired through pirate raids on shipping or coastal towns and villages. The markets declined after the loss of the First and Second Barbary wars and ultimately ended in the 1830's when the entire area came under French rule.

Contents

Origins

The slave trade had existed in North Africa since antiquity, with a supply of African slaves arriving through trans-Saharan trade routes. The towns on the North African coast were recorded in Roman times for their slave markets, and this trend continued into the medieval age. The Barbary Coast increased in influence in the 15th century when the Ottoman Empire took over as rulers of the area. Coupled with this was an influx of Moorish refugees, newly expelled from Spain after the Reconquista. With Ottoman protection and a host of destitute immigrants, the coastline soon became reputed for piracy. Crews from the seized ships were either enslaved or ransomed.

Golden Age of Barbary Slavery

After a revolt in the mid 17th century reduced the ruling Ottoman Pashas to little more than figureheads in the region, the towns of Tripoli, Algiers, Tunis and others became independent in all but name. Without a large central authority and its laws, the pirates themselves started to gain much influence. Pirate raids for the acquisition of slaves occurred in towns and villages on the African Atlantic seaboard, as well as in Europe. Reports of Barbary raids and kidnappings of those in Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, England, Ireland, Scotland as far north as Iceland exist from between the 16th to the 19th centuries. It is estimated that between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by pirates and sold as slaves during this time period. Famous accounts of Barbary slave raids include a mention in the Diary of Samuel Pepys and a raid on the coastal village of Baltimore, Ireland, during which pirates left with the entire populace of the settlement. Such raids in the Mediterrean were so frequent and devastating that the coastline between Venice to Malaga suffered widespread depopulation, and settlement there was discouraged. In fact, it was said that this was largely because 'there was no one left to capture any longer'. The power and influence of these pirates during this time was such that nations including the United States of America paid tribute in order to stave off their attacks.

Decline

In the first years of the 19th century, the United States of America and some European nations fought and won two Barbary Wars against the pirates. After an Anglo-Dutch raid on Algiers in 1816 immobilised most of the Pirate fleet, the Dey of Algiers was forced to agree to terms which included a cessation of the practice of enslaving Christians, although slave trading in non-Europeans could still continue. After losing in this period of formal hostilities with European and American powers, the Barbary States went into decline. However, the Barbary pirates did not cease their operations, and another British raid on Algiers took place in 1824. Finally, in 1830 and 1831, France took control of Algiers and Tunis respectively. Tripoli returned to Ottoman control in 1835, before finally falling into Italian hands in 1911. As such, the slave traders now found that they had to work in accordance with the laws of their governors, and could no longer look to self-regulation. The slave trade finally ceased on the Barbary coast when European governments passed laws granting emancipation to slaves.

See also





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