White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa's One Million European Slaves

White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa's One Million European Slaves

by Giles Milton

Using the firsthand testimony of a Cornish cabin boy named Thomas Pellow, Giles Milton vividly reconstructs a disturbing, little known chapter of history.

Pellow was bought by the tyrannical sultan of Morocco who was constructing an imperial pleasure palace of enormous scale and grandeur, built entirely by Christian slave labour.

Gripping, immaculately researched, and brilliantly realised, WHITE GOLD reveals an explosive chapter of popular history, told with all the pace and verve of one of our finest historians.

  • Language: English
  • Category: History
  • Rating: 4.05
  • Pages: 316
  • Publish Date: May 1st 2005 by Hodder & Stoughton
  • Isbn10: 0340794704
  • Isbn13: 9780340794708

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Once I realised it was actually historical non fiction I started really enjoying it. I particularly enjoyed this episode recounted by Milton where an English ship with a cargo of Africans destined for slavery in North America gets captured by Moroccans and the whole crew gets sent to slavery in Morocco. Right now I am reading The Professor and the Madman and I am enjoying Simon Winchester's style a lot more because he's got jokes.

I thought this was very well-written, exceptionally well-researched, and an engaging read.

Until reading Giles Milton's book I hadn't realised the extent of "White Slave Trade" in 18th century Europe and America.Moroccan pirates or Corairs were regularly both captury vessels at sea and selling their crews and passengers into slavery or carrying out raids on England's South-West coast and kidnapping men, women and children for this lucrative trade.

This grips the reader and takes him along on a whirlwind adventure, which could easily be taken from a high budget Hollywood film.

Pellow's story is full of adventure in the grandest sense and gives us a rich and terryfying picture of life in Morocco in the early 18th century.

I read this book at a time when I had no plans of travelling to Morocco.

Also, the author provides a fab bibliography of further reading of accounts of the Barbary (or White) Slave Trade as told by those who were captured and lived, or the opinions of their contemporaries, and a fantastic introduction to the extraordinary life of Thomas Pellow. To be honest, I'm surprised it's so short, considering the amount of information that seems to be left over from the era, but then again, Pellow's own account is still available, as are others', including a descendent of his family, Captain Edward Pellew, who gave Algiers a whupping (around 100 years after Thomas Pellow was captured by the Moors) causing significant enough damage to the slave city that it led not long after to the complete annihilation of the White Slave Trade by the French.

Not only is it a very well-written book, it also stands out for the extraordinary story it tells.

So, as I'm reading the first part of this book, about how the Brits and other Europeans were snatched sometimes right from their homes and then transported in unthinkably awful conditions to slave pens almost as bad and then sold at auction as slaves, all I could think was how remarkably familiar it should all sound to anyone who's ever heard of the black slave trade. After I'd just about given up on him, he finally did, and then my faith in humanity was once again shaken as he pointed out that while the British and the rest of the Europeans were all appalled and aghast at this sort of treatment, they all still considered it a perfectly reasonable thing to do to others. Yes, I know, I know, perceptions were different, and blacks were considered subhuman at best by most of the white world at this time, but I still have trouble wrapping my head around that, and as someone who is notorious for playing devil's advocate (why yes, I'm a Libra. Anyway, once we moved past the initial capture, we moved onto discussions of the horrific treatment the slaves (mostly, but not all, white christians, for the record) received at the hands of the sultan. This plus the fact that the history we see in the Western world tends to be so white European-centric makes it somewhat surprising that you almost never hear about it.

He has contributed articles for most of the British national newspapers as well as many foreign publications, and specializes in the history of travel and exploration.