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White Gold: The Forgotten Story of North Africa's One Million European Slaves Paperback – 9 May 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (9 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340895098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340895092
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 17.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,924,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Writer and journalist Giles Milton specializes in the history of travel and exploration. His latest literary adventure, White Gold, is the story of Thomas Pellow, a Cornish cabin boy who was captured at sea by a group of fanatical Islamic slave traders—the Barbary corsairs, taken in chains to the great slave markets of Algiers, Tunis and Salè in Morocco and sold to the highest bidder. Pellow’s purchaser happened to be the tyrannical sultan of Morroco, Moulay Ismail, a man committed to building a vast imperial pleasure palace of unsurpassable splendour built entirely by Christian slave labour. After enduring long periods of torture Pellow converted to Islam and became the personal slave of the sultan for over two decades—including a stint as a soldier in the sultan’s army—before finally making a dramatic escape and return to Cornwall. The account is supported by the unpublished letters and manuscripts of slaves and the various ambassadors sent to free them. This is an excellently written account of the history of the white slave trade. Pellow’s story is an extraordinary one but the real interest lies in the picture Milton builds of life in the slave pens and especially of daily life at the court of the spectacularly barbaric Moulay Ismail. --Larry Brown --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Giles Milton has a gift for searching out odd and forgotten corners of history and turning them into bestselling books... this is not a dry history, but a full-blooded narrative closer in style to a historical novel than to an academic study. (William Palmer Literary Review)

Milton's story could scarcely be more action-packed, and its setting and subsidiary characters are as fantastic as its events. (The Sunday Times)

An extraordinary story which few people will be at all familiar with... an exciting and sensational account of a really swash-buckling historical episode (Philip Hensher, Spectator)

Giles Milton's narrative races along as he stitches together a story of heroism, sacrifice and misplaced zeal, painstakingly researched from contemporary writing and records (Observer)

Giles Milton... has crafted an inspiration for those of us who believe that history can be exciting and entertaining (The Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Neil Limbert on 21 Dec. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Brilliant research and background work bring to life the story of Morocco's White slave trade. Milton has the skill of a novelist and manages to engage the reader immediately. His stories of Barbary corsairs sailing with inpunity up and down the English channel during the 17th century is incredible-particularly the year when they established a slave gathering base on Lundy Island. He estimates over 1 million European slaves were taken. He centralises his story around Thomas Pellow who endured 23 years in captivity before escaping.
I thoroughly recommend this book to all lovers of well written history.It fills a gap in our knowledge.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By DB on 31 May 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love Giles Milton's books. If you haven't read Nathaniel's Nutmeg or Samurai William, then do so.

I already knew a bit of this story - that Barbary corsairs raided the Cornish and Irish coasts in the seventeenth century for slaves, but I wasn't aware of the enormous scale of the Moroccan and Algerian white slave trade. Or that it continued up to the Congress of Vienna. And I had never heard of the dramatic incident that brought it to an end - a British fleet, massively armed thanks to Britain being in the first flush of the Industrial Revolution, pounding Algiers to rubble until the local sultan agreed to give up the trade.

And did you know that an abusive gesture used by Muslims to Christians was to raise the middle finger, to indicate that there was just one God? Anyway, a great read.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. J. Read on 11 Oct. 2006
Format: Paperback
I have been a huge fan of Milton since Nathaniels Nutmeg, which was a phenomenal story. The whole point of his books are to take periods of history, little understood, and create a vivid story. It would be wrong to say it reads like fiction, because one is fully aware you are reading a book of history, but it is told with so much enthusiasm and poise as to make it eminently readable.

The story, as one would guess, is of the little known tale of white slaves that were captured bu the Barbary corsairs and sold to such places as Morocco and Algiers (Algeria). It goes into graphic detail about the conditions and brutality they endured, and the cruelty of their owners, particularly a despotic sultan of Morocco. I mean, you couldn't make up moulay Ismail, a brutal and ruthless villain, who was so unpredictable he could sometimes forgive even treason.

The character we follow is a chap called Thomas Pellow, captured at 11, and subjected to 23 years (ish) slavery. It follows his beatings, his enforced conversion to Islam, his rise in authority in the grandiose palace of Meknes, to when he even defied the Sultan yet lived. He then became a renegade, and thought in an army of such people, and made numerous desperate escape attempts.

Utterley absorbing. We follow sieges, naval battles, tortures, awful executions, daring emissaries, desperate escapes, betrayals. You couldn't ask for much more. If you like your history fast paced and bloody, this is for you.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mr. P. Holt on 15 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback
I had heard a snippet of information about how white Christian Europeans had been enslaved by the Sultans of Morocco, but this was missing from my history lessons. A well researched and written history of white slaves from the 1600's taken from many parts of Europe into North Africa, told from the story of a young Cornish boy Thomas Pellow who was held as a slave for twenty-three years before escaping back to Britain. Giles Milton has opened my eyes to knowledge I did not know was there. This led me on to reading the book White Cargo, of white slaves in the British American Colonies. Oh what else were we not taught at school. []
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By PlumaSerrana on 14 April 2010
Format: Paperback
THis book ought to be highly recommended reading for the following people:

a) those who ask the questions "what is history for?" and "why should we bother with history?". They may have their minds challenged, at least once, because if they are not challenged by this book, those people not only haven't got a brain, they don't have a heart either.

b) those who armed with statistics forget the deeper human side to every event or series of events; it might be ink on paper but it took blood, sweat and tears to produce this story of those awful events. Our day and age has also its share of awful events which may or may be reported about, and when they are, they just become part of a numbers game.

c) those that still believe "that would have never happened to us, never did, never will". Those who ignore history are those most likely to repeat it. Such people also tend to not see any holes in their tidy mental schemes which go along the mantra "our country set the world to rights and always came to the rescue of our people".

e) those that have either ignored or bypassed the fact that, of all the world civilizations that have practised slavery, it was only those cultures from Europe that turned their backs on practising slavery when they eventually listened to social reformers which, in England's case, was a Christian MP by the name of William Wilberforce. Where are the change of mind and practice, the apologies from non-European cultures towards the oppression they caused? Not only is the world still waiting, but they have not changed neither minds nor practices. Any replies sent on a postcard, please, and preferrably not from Darfur.
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