White Slaves – Muslim Pirates
Sailors knew the risk: captivation by pirates and becoming a slave in North Africa. From 1500 to 1830 one million European seamen and passengers were captured by Muslim pirates in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The greatest threat came from North Africa from the Barbary Coast. Pirates endowed with state permits took captives and sold them at slave markets.
On 26 September 1575 the Sol was attacked by North African pirates off the coast of Catalonia. On board was a young Spanish soldier by the name of Miguel – on a voyage that was to change the life of the young man who went on to become one of the greatest, most widely-read authors in the history of literature.
Miguel de Cervantes was enslaved in the dungeons of Algiers for five years before he was ransomed.
In Cervantes “Don Quijote” there are chapters about a slave who returns from Algiers, but Cervantes did not write any diary in captivity. But another slave, Antonio de Sosa, described Cervantes’ four attempts of escape.
In 1724 a 14 year old seaman Hark Olufs was captured by pirates and enslaved by the local ruler in Constantine, Algeria. From boy slave, Hark went on to become a private executioner. His life as slave is exceptional. He wrote his biography in 1735 when he returned to Europe, a rich man after 11 years in slavery.
A third character is Gudda the Turk, an Icelandic woman captured together with her little son and about 400 other at Iceland in 1627.