Shakespeare Studies, Volume 31 edited by Leeds Barroll, Susan Zimmerman


“The English, lagging behind for about half a century, cashed in on the slave trade as early as the 1480s. Various records kept in several Spanish archives disprove the received view that the English as a slaving nation was late coming in the 1550s.  Moors and Mooresses of Morocco constituted colonial targets only for the Portuguese and the Spaniards, they were also victims of the English who bought the captured slaves at the slave markets of Andalusia. The trade with enslaved Moroccans led to a serious depopulation of the coastal regions of Morocco.” 

The Anglo-Moroccan merchants made the painful discovery that they were interacting with Moroccan Muslims not from an overwhelming position of strength, but from a position of near impotence and vulnerability. The centralized rule of the Saadian sharifs had infused a sense of nationhood into the Moroccan tribes, and its mercantile policy, relying on exports to European countries, was conducted on Morocco’s own terms. Thus the English merchants were often at the mercy of the Moroccan sultans and their marabouts. The sultans dictated the fiscal terms of the trade and the marabouts banned the export of saltpeter and the famous Barbary horses. It is true that the trade had unilaterally been pioneered, in chronological order, by the Genoese, Portuguese, French and English merchant adventurers who had the advantage of the superior sailing technology of ocean-going vessels, but once the trade had been established, the sultans, on the whole, gained the upper hand.” 

Source: Shakespeare Studies. Columbia: 2003.Vol. 31


“The first Englishmen to settle along the Christian/Muslim or Hispano/African border were the merchants stationed in Seville, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Huelva, Cadiz, and Valencia. Their early encounters with the Moors in Andalusia and across the Straits of Gibraltar were the result of a concerted campaign launched by their company’s expansionist commercial policy. A shroud of silence has been cast over the history of early English slave-holding in Spain by Gordon Connell-Smith’s study of the English Andalusia Company. It is time to recognize as a historical fact that the majority of the English merchants resident in Andalusia–I mention only some of the prominent figures such as Robert and Nicholas Thorne, the geographer Roger Barlow, and Thomas Mailliard–were slave owners. Alfonso Franco Silva, the medievalist of the University of Cadiz, has provided ample evidence that some of them were also slave dealers.” 


“Malliard’s inventory, drawn up after his death on 29 August 1522 by his English business partners and executors Robert Thorne, Thomas Bridges, and Roger Barlow, list sixteen slaves, among them three Moroccan Moors, five Mooresses, four mulattoes (“loros”), and five negroes. The Mallards must be ranked among the leading slave owners in the Iberian Peninsula considering that the average number of slaves owned by the landed nobility was fifteen.” 

English trade with Morocco was a natural extension of the existing trade established by the Andalusia company in Spain and in the Levant. Individual voyages can be traced as far back as the 1520s or 1530s when Roger Barlow visited Agadir, which then was still in the hands of the Portuguese. Regular trade, however, began after the Portuguese had withdrawn from Agadir and Safi in 1541, and it increased after 1549 when Charles V forbade Spanish merchants to trade with North Africa, Morocco included, which by them had emerged as an independent sovereign state under the Saadian sharifs. The following years until 1603 were a period of experimentation when the merchants sought the ideal form into which the trade should be cast.” 

“Trade was maintained by the Barbary merchants for more than a generation without control or regulation. Then in 1585, under the pressure of the earl of Leicester, it was subjected to the control of a regulated company. Leicester saw in the Barbary Company a vehicle for selling strategic goods, munitions, iron, lead, tin, timber, and oars for the professional army and navy of Ahmad al-Mansur. The monopoly of the Barbary Company came to an end in 1597 when the trade reverted to its former freedom, giving way to uncontrollable deregulation, damaging rivalry, and fraudulent practices; its demise caused heavy losses among the English merchants.” 

Source: Shakespeare Studies. Columbia: 2003.Vol. 31 pg. 89.”