The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, June 04, 2016

European slave narratives

I still haven't read Robert Davis' Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters. I probably should, since I've that Algerian connexion and am, in fact, even a small part Amazigh. Derb reviewed this book a decade ago. Every now and again it pops up in one's Twitter and alt-right trolling; today it's, er, Gabriel Said Reynolds.

Not everyone's a fan. Ehud Toledano complains about nuance, in the review portion of the 2006 Journal of African history for which he's uploaded the whole thing. Toledano observes that the book cares only about the West's experience with slavery and doesn't care about the Ottoman (the book says "Turk") experience. So the book is a modern-day distillation of the eighteenth-century Barbary picaresque; a popular genre in European and, later, American literature. I do wonder why Toledano finds this anti-slaver slavery book so "astonishing". His name smells Sephardic to my part-Ashkenaz nose and I wonder if any of his ancestors had sold a couple Christian boys in their time.

Anyway the North African coast has followed the same pattern since long before anyone there considered embracing Islam. Recently we've found this Carthaginian. Even back then, the Semitic elite took Europeans for breeding stock and subsaharans for hard labour; the Berbers were, it seems, recruited for the army but otherwise best avoided. (When caliph Hisham mail-ordered for some Berber slave girls, he got a rebellion instead.) Much safer to raid Europeans. Nordic girls don't mind much.

posted by Zimri on 16:12 | link | 0 comments

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