White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam's One Million White Slaves Hardcover – 1 Jun 2005
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
He tells this story mostly from the records remaining about Thomas Pellow, an 11-year-old English child who was seized in 1716 and served for 23 years as a personal servant to Sultan Moulay Ismail of Morocco. However Pellow provides a background for the slave trade in general. It seems to be a very good choice of subject. He was young enough to assimilate to a greater extent with his new owners - learnign the language and customs quickly. He was also smart and plucky enough to get himself out of all kinds of situations which would have meant instant death for many. The value of life was not that great.
For the rest of Pellow's crewmates there was little hope and many served in appalling circumstances and died there labouring on the immense palaces the Moulay wanted to build.
Most extraodinary is the almost catch 22 the prisoners found themselves in, if they converted to Islam they would not be eligible for ransom by their government, however if they didn't convert they were almost sure to die in appalling conditions.
Milton writes without turning this into a tabloid-style history - it is balanced and interesting, he doesn't linger on the horrors, keeping to the story. I think this makes it strongger, and I found this book a real page turner - following Pellow's captivity and eventual daring gives it structure and the research fills in the background - my highest recommendation
One reviewer wrote, "Does this sound uncomfortably familiar? Like some Islamic extremists of today, the Sultans laughed about holding Europe to ransom. They were rarely met with force." History does indeed repeat itself.
Indeed this book may soon be unavailable due to those reasons. It could be construed that this account of slavery might cause offense to Muslims, though none of the Muslims I know personally would be so offended. But one of the motivations for me to buy this book was the "review" by the (Islamic?) correspondent of the Washington Post, which you kindly reproduce. Viewing this distainful dismissal was for me most revealing and may (I hope) encourage others to make this purchase also.
They will be rewarded by an account of a period of history which is being quietly swept under the carpet and out of sight.
This book is deeply fascinating not only because it is the first many of us have heard about this form of white slavery, but it also gives a fascinating look at the Moulay Ismael dynasty in Morocco. While this look is limited by telling the story through Thomas Pellows' experiences, it is fascinating to get a glimpse of an absolute ruler who had even more power and lived in more grandeur than Louis XIV.
The only way to improve the book would be to include more information on how the pirate raids and the enslavement of the English merchants and villagers affected and changed English government and society.