Privateering and captivity in the Mediterranean
Sub-Saharan African slaves
Privateering in the Mediterranean went hand in hand with the slave trade from sub-Saharan Africa.
Black African captives – enslaved in the wake of local wars among rival tribes or organised kidnappings – were brought in caravans to trading hubs on the shores of the southern Mediterranean. From here, they were dispatched to Europe, the Mediterranean region and the Islamic world to be employed as military personnel, domestic servants, agricultural workers or as crew members of privateering and other ships. Unlike the American system, slavery in those areas often allowed for improvement in slaves’ conditions. Many were accepted as respected members of the household, gained important military and political positions or even, on occasion, ruled. In the Ottoman Empire, as elsewhere, most black slaves were freed in the mid-19th century, as convictions that slavery should be abolished increasingly took hold.
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Privateering and captivity in the Mediterranean

Privateering in the Mediterranean
Military slaves or Mamluks
Sub-Saharan African slaves
Précis historique de la traite des noirs et de l'esclavage colonial



National Library of France, Paris, France

Men, women and even children were forcefully taken from their homeland and marched all the way to the coasts of the Southern Mediterranean. Inhumane treatment such as that depicted in this image of black slaves in the French colonies was the norm.

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In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
Privateering and captivity in the Mediterranean
Migrations within the Ottoman Empire
North–South movements
The life of European immigrant communities: Egypt and Tunisia