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The Untold Story of White Slavery

The Untold Story of White Slavery

Author(s):

Date Published: 
Monday, 5 September, 2016
Summary: 

The Barbary Coast, which extends from Morocco through modern Libya, was home to a thriving man-catching industry from about 1500 to 1800. The great slaving capitals were Salé in Morocco, Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli, and for most of this period European navies were too weak to put up more than token resistance.

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Prof. Davis points out that there was no check of any kind on cruelty: "There was no countervailing force to protect the slave from his master's violence: no local anti-cruelty laws, no benign public opinion, and rarely any effective pressure from foreign states." Slaves were not just property, they were infidels, and deserved whatever suffering a master meted out. Prof. Davis notes that "all slaves who lived in the bagnos and survived to write of their experiences stressed the endemic cruelty and violence practiced there." The favorite punishment was the bastinado, in which a man was put on his back, and his ankles clamped together and held waist high for a sustained beating on the soles of the feet. A slave might get as many as 150 or 200 blows, which could leave him crippled. Systematic violence turned many men into automatons. Slaves were often so plentiful and so inexpensive, there was no point in caring for them; many owners worked them to death and bought replacements.