23 January 2017

The Sack of Baltimore

In a post last week I noted that Barbary pirates had attacked and enslaved Icelanders in the early 17th century.  A hat tip to reader Bob the Scientist, who appended a comment that similar events happened in Ireland, as reported here by History Ireland:
The sack of Baltimore, the only recorded instance of a slaving raid by corsairs in Ireland, was part of a wider pattern across Europe, encompassing not only the entire Mediterranean region but also the Atlantic seaboard as far north as Iceland. Slave-raiding of Christians by Muslim corsairs became common from the late fifteenth century onwards, coinciding with the expulsion of the Moors from Spain. In his comprehensive study Christian slaves, Muslim masters, Robert Davis sees a direct correlation between the two. He proposes that by expelling the Moors from Spain in the final years of the fifteenth century Ferdinand and Isabella created an implacable enemy, as well as fostering a new dynamism among Islamic North African communities, which manifested itself as a passionate and conscious desire to settle accounts with Christendom.

Slave-raiding as an economic and ideological weapon was not confined to the Muslims of the Ottoman empire and North Africa. European seafaring powers engaged equally in the taking of Islamic ships and the use of their crews as slave labour...

At 2am on the morning of 20 June some 230 men, armed with muskets, landed at the Cove. Quickly and silently spreading out, they divided up and waited at the doors of the 26 cottages along the shoreline. At a given signal, brandishing iron bars to break the
doors and firebrands to torch the buildings, they launched a simultaneous attack on the sleeping inhabitants. The terror of the population can only be imagined as they were wrested from their beds by strange men speaking an unknown language... In the initial foray 100 people were seized...

For the first hour or so any male captive who did not keep out of his captors’ way was severely beaten, and in some instances actually hacked to death in a bloody frenzy. Owing to their high retail value, women and children were treated with relative kindness; curtains were erected to allow privacy, facilities for washing were offered, and they were allowed complete freedom of movement below decks...

The Baltimore captives were helpless victims awaiting their fate. In Algiers, Frizell reported that all had arrived alive and requested funds to pay for their release. These funds were not forthcoming, owing to the English government’s newly adopted policy of not paying ransoms, as it was believed that to do so would encourage the taking of hostages and act as a disincentive to sailors to defend their ships.

Detainees were immediately taken to the basha, an official who had a right to ten per cent of all booty, including slaves. The rest of the captives, with men and women segregated, would have been sent to slave pens. There they were paraded, chained and nearly naked, while prospective buyers inspected the merchandise. Those not sold in the initial auction were housed in storage facilities or bagnios—large, unsanitary blocks that supplied casual, and expendable, labour on a contract basis. Children had usually been removed from their families by this point and a process of acculturation had begun...
Much more at the link.  This is history that I was never taught, and that has some marginal relevance to current world geopolitics.


  1. Since topic is about seafaring, prisioner taking and similar activities... may I interest readers of this marvelous blog on the subject of Curonian tribes (in Latvian - Kurši), who on several occasions have challenged Vikings on who is the vikingiest of them all :D




    1. Blogworthy. And definitely a TYWK. Thank you, Aleksejs.

  2. There is a book by Giles Milton called White Gold about the subject .

  3. Marginal relevance? What do you think the history of Islam entails, peace (ha)? You've only marginally scratched the surface... Visit YouTube and look for Dr. Bill Warner to begin...

  4. I've never seen Islamic countries come up in conversations about reparations for slavery. Am I just missing it?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...