“Britons began their seaborne trade in the Mediterranean basin and the east Atlantic during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and repeatedly found themselves, merchants and sailors alike, clashing with Turks and Moors. At the end of the sixteenth century, numerous Britons were taken captive in regions extending from the Ottoman Levant and the North African regencies to Morocco, all the way to the Atlantic half a century later (1640), there were “thousands” of captives in Algiers and Sale, according to an Act of Parliament. But by the beginning of the eighteenth century, Britain had succeeded in establishing its control over the major commercial and maritime zones, and although captives continued to be taken (mainly as a result of the ship wreck), their numbers declined dramatically, ending completely at the beginning of the nineteenth century.” (Page 1)
“Numerous literary critics have written about the impact of captivity on British “identity,” “hybridity”, “multiculturalism,” and “performativity,” while others have interpreted Elizabethan and Jacobean literature (drama in particular) in the light of captivity. Historians have studied the captivity of Europeans in the early modern Mediterranean and Atlantic, emphasizing its violence and anti-Christian motivations, and extrapolating from the seizure of Britons (and Continental Europeans) a casus belli that resulted in the European commercial and maritime domination of the basin.” (Page 1)
“Notwithstanding the pillage committed by all parties, Christian and Muslim alike, and notwithstanding the indiscriminate nature of captivity in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic the scholarly and popular focus has been chiefly on North Africans and their Islamic anti-christian design. Such focus has led to parallels with recent events in the Middle East and elsewhere thus the baginos of the seventeenth century in North Africa have been compared to the Stalinist Gulag, while the Muslim pirates of early modernity have been seen as precursors of modern day Middle Eastern terrorist and of Somali pirates.”(Page 1)
“It’s unfortunate that the study of North African and Mediterranean captivity has been underpinned, as Gordan M. Sayre has noted, by geopolitical events since 2008. For, allusions to contemporary geopolitical events ignore historical specificity and invoke the Orientalist doctrine, described by Edward said, that all Muslims are alike in their position to the West, that their actions never change, and that the piracy of the Mediterranean Algerians in 1608 continues among the Somalis of the Indian Ocean in 2008. (Page 1)
Such comparisons raise serious historiographical concerns about the ideological motives of captivity scholarship since those motives do not remain confined to the ivory towers of academic agreement or disagreement Muslim piracy, slavery, and terrorism serve in stoking contemporary Islamaphobia because they ignore completely ‘Christian piracy, slavery, and “terrorism” (per Janice E. Thomson) that occurred at the same time in the same waters. With the exception of a few careful historians whose work I will be citing frequently, scholars and popular authors continue to demonize the “Barbary Corsairs,” and by extension Muslims, at the same time that the media entertainment industry romanticize ‘Christian’ corsairs.” (Page 1)
“The pirates of the Caribbean, who were contemporaries’ o the “Barbary Corsairs,” have been celebrated in theme parks in Disney Worked, in “Pirates’ Dinner Adventure” in Orlando, Florida, and in the Johnny Depp film sequence Pirates of the Caribbean. No denunciation of the ‘Christianity’ of those pirates is on record, neither now or in the early modern period when numerous reasons were presented t the King Charles II in 1670 why “privateers should not be wholly discontinued in the West Indies. The focus on captivity and piracy by the Barbary Corsairs’ that excludes the concurrent captivity and piracy by the ‘Christian Corsairs’ serves to confirm a binary between evil and good, Muslim and Christian, African and European.”(Page 1)
Captivity of ‘Christians’ by ‘Muslims’ has become one the dominate motifs in the study of early modern relations between the ‘West’ and ‘Islam’ in the same manner that the accounts of captivity of English colonist by Indians in Cotton Mather’s Decennium Luctuosum (1699) became, as Louise K. Barnett has observed, “the central experience of white-Indian relations. Although the white colonist forced Indians out of their lands, theological and scholarly studies have remained focused on the whites who were captured by the Indians and on their ordeals and tribulations. As Pauline Turner Strong has argued, the number of Indians captured by the Colonist was by far higher than the number of colonist captured by the Indians, and that “it is in large part through….the suppression of the colonist’ role as captors of Indians that the selective tradition of captivity has gained its ideological force” in American studies.” (Page 1)
A similar suppression has dominated the study of British and other European captives in North Africa, and as in scholarship on North America where the “heathenism” and “savagery” of the Indian precipitated suppression of the Indian perspective, so in the prevailing scholarship on ‘Muslim’ captors and ‘Christian” captives. From R.L. Playfair’s work about North Africa with its ominous title, The Scourge of Christendom, to the many book blurbs and titles about “Christian slaves” and “Muslim masters,” there is emphasis on irreconcilable religious polarization that captives shape to much of the critical body of literature on the “Barbary Corsairs” and allows for the continued use of the term “Barbary coast” in contemporary scholarship, a term that was never used by the North Africans themselves and that does not appear on any modern atlas.” (Page 1)
First the Euro Christian did not see only Muslims as their adversaries to be captured, tortured, and enslaved. Jews too were captured, making the Muslim and the Jew fellow victims of the ‘Christian Master.’ In their piracy and privateering, Western Europeans captured Jews from North Africa, selling or exchanging hem in the manner they did Muslims. After, all in the early modern Islamic world lived the largest number of Jews in the world, spread from the interior of Morocco all the way to the Ottoman Levant and beyond. In North Africa, Jews were employed at court, were sent as diplomatic emissaries and a Jew serving the Moroccan ruler (Mulay Zaydan) turned pirate and captured three Spanish ships.”
There were many occasions when Jews appealed to Muslim authorities to help them against Europeans: Mulay Ismail (reg. 1672-1727) defended and supported their causes in Morocco, as did the Beys and Deys of the regencies. Actually, when Ismail sent Hayyim Tulidanu as ambassador to England, he indicated clearly that the Jew was a “dhimmi of our house,” and because he was of “our house,” he was to receive all honor due to an ambassador. A letter from the British consul in Algiers described how “Turks, Moors and Jews” demanded justice from the Dey “on score of a British Satia freighted by their friends from Tunis to this place.
In 1751, and at the signing of a treaty between the British Consul-General, William Petticrew and Sidi Muhammad of Morocco (reg. 1757-1790), the latter insisted on an article that his “Subjects, whether Jewish or Muslim, should not be prohibited from living and working in Gibraltar.” In December 1715, George Paddon, the British ambassador to Morocco, wrote from Gibralter: In this Garrison [Gibraltar] of Moors and Jews about the Number of our Captives in Mequiness, Subjects of Mulay Ismail & some of those Jews Principals who have the handling of the Emperors Money and pay him yearly use for the same. The only way to make them weary…is to use the Jews here as the poor Christians are used in Barbary rather worse…to seize on their Goods, they being all belonging to the Moors, to put in Prison the Chief, making the others work at the fortifications, to keep all manner of Trade from them, in ships to hover on the Coasts and what should strictly examined & under pretext be brought in & rummaged well for contraband Goods… the Jews at Mequiness fr the sake of their Brethren here would help in procuring a lasting Peace. I wish the Jews in my Power I have & am well assured that the Chief of the Jews at Salee & one Pettet a French broken Merchant have been the sole occasion of our Rupture.” (Page 5-6)
The capture and enslavement of Jews by Europeans encouraged an English resident in Morocco to inquire in 1716 from secretary of state, after an English ship had been seized by pirates, “whether he may not size the Moors & Jews Inhabitants of Gibraltar by way of Reprisal for the cruel usages of British Captives. Because Jews were part o the North African politics, they were viewed by Europeans as part of the enemy and therefore legitimate slaves. Secondly, the Christian slaves on board the Muslim galleys were rarely Easter Christian Arabs or Greeks-unless they were living in west European countries. In the period under study and in the eastern Mediterranean of the Ottoman Empire lived the largest indigenous Christian population outside Western Europe. A French captive in Algiers in 1619 wrote that 3,000 families of free Christian merchants (presumably Catholic) and 179 Greek (Orthodox) families were living in the city and over 20,000 free Christians in other parts of North Africa, outside the Spanish and Portuguese colonies.” (Page 5-6)
This section of our website is dedicated informing interested parties of the findings concluded by Murakush derived from research and analysis of several topics and points of interest as it relates to the heritage, history and culture of the Moors.