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How long did the Moors have white slaves?


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Dear SB,

“Moor” has long been a vague term, though we’ve generally come to use it for various caliphates in North Africa and, between 711 and 1492, a large part of the Iberian Peninsula. “Moors” in that period ranged from Semitic Arabs to Berbers to black Africans who made their way north via the trade routes, to migrating Gypsies (credited with influencing Spanish music, including Flamenco) to Caucasian Riffs and converted Spanish Muslims (Andalusians and Grenadines). Throughout the time period mentioned—and, in fact, well into the 1800s—the various peoples in those Moorish kingdoms practiced slavery and white captives were used whenever they could obtain them, often from Barbary pirates ravaging the Mediterranean. It was estimated that white slaves in Moorish servitude reached 1.2 million by 1780. Not that the Moors limited the system, such as it was, to Europeans. In 1591 a Moorish expedition headed south to smash the black Songhai empire, motivated primarily by gold and secondarily in taking black slaves. If one wasn’t a subject of the kingdom, they were equal opportunity oppressors. Nor were they the only ones—in the 13th century participants in the Children’s Crusades who naively obtained passage aboard ships run by unscrupulous crewmen were taken to Egypt, to be sold into slavery there.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History

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