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White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam's One Million White Slaves Hardcover – Jun 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T); 1st American Edition edition (June 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374289352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374289355
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.1 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 612 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #97,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

For this harrowing story of white captives in 18th-century Morocco, Milton (author of the highly praised Nathaniel's Nutmeg) draws primarily on the memoir of a Cornish cabin boy, Thomas Pellow, who was taken by Islamic pirates in 1716 and sold as a slave to the legendarily tyrannical Sultan Moulay Ismail. Pellow remained in Morocco for more than 20 years, his family barely recognizing him when he at last escaped home. Placing Pellow's tale within wider horizons, Milton describes how, during the 17th and 18th centuries, thousands of European captives were snatched from their coastal villages by Islamic slave traders intent on waging war on Christendom. Put into forced labor and appalling living conditions, they perished in huge numbers. As a pragmatic convert to Islam, Pellow fared better, earning a wife who bore him a daughter. Milton includes Pellow's years as a soldier in Moulay Ismail's army and draws out his cliff-hanging escape back to England. Pellow's sensational tale dominates the book, and though rendered in seductively poised prose, in the end it feels short on ideas and argument. Milton also fails to cite other historians working in this area (a prime example being Linda Colley). 16 pages of b&w illus. not seen by PW; 2 maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The horrors of the transatlantic slave trade have been extensively documented in print and eloquently portrayed on film and television. But chattel slavery was a well-established African as well as European institution, and its victims were not exclusively people of color. In the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries, the Barbary states of North Africa used Islamic pirates, or corsairs, to conduct slave raids, which fed the flourishing slave markets of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. Many of the enslaved were white Europeans or North Americans captured at sea. Among them was 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. Milton relates Pellow's compelling story as a triumph of wile, pluck, and endurance; but this is also a tale of great brutality and suffering, as Milton eloquently shows that all of the indignities one associates with European and American slavery were visited upon those held in North Africa. A riveting account. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Craig Jenkins on Jan. 9 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have to admit my utter ignorance of much of the history covered in White Gold prior to reading the book itself. I had of course heard of the Barbary Pirates, the Corsairs, but simply had missed that there was ever such widespread marauding, piracy and slavery involving European and (for some reason particularly compelling to me) American captives.

I only stumbled onto this via House of Tears, and from that the brief chapter on the tale of Thomas Pellow. Another good source if this one tickles your fancy.

In any case, although the book is far from perfect, they're starting from a great source. This tale would seem unreal if it had any glimmer of romance to it, but Milton manages to portray Pellow's life without getting sucked into glamourizing what must have been a largely bitter existence. Equally, he manages deftly, I think, the contradiction of european slave trading prior to and throughout the period.

I would very much recommend this as high adventure and history lesson, and hope you will agree.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 52 reviews
64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
First I ever heard of White Slavery from England June 29 2005
By A. Woodley - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Did you know that Arab slave traders used to pluck villagrs and fishermen from the coast of Britain and take them off to serve in slavery in the Islamic world. I didn't even know that this trade existed, and in fact it continued into the eighteenth century - this little known fact has been turned into another compelling history by Giles milton

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
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
The well kept secret of white slaves June 5 2005
By Radokomahay - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I found this book in Dar es Salaam bookstore. Fascinating history of the well kept secret of white slaves in North Africa. None of our history books note that this is the reason the US Navy was sent to whip the Barbary pirates. Probably too embarrassing to admit that there was a time that Europe and the US was impotent in this white slave trade. Well written but not for the weak of heart.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating and informative look at forgotten or ignored era Sept. 23 2005
By D. White - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you are like me, you have only heard of the Barbary Pirates briefly mentioned in history classes as an aside when discussing Jefferson. I had no idea that the pirates raided as far away as England, Iceland, and Russia.

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.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Historical Account March 10 2007
By Martin - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having heard of this book from friends, I checked it out before purchase as there are nowadays many examples of history being rewritten for what might be termed "politially correct" reasons.

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.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Another great Giles Milton book! Dec 25 2005
By Anya Sherwood - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in 4 days it was so good! Giles Milton really has a way with putting together historical facts into a great sequential story. The story is about Thomas Pellow and his first voyage with his uncle that ends up with them being captured and sent into slavery under and Islamic leader Moulay Ismail. It seems Pellow survived unbelievable things and finally makes it back to England some 23 years later. It was really strange to read about the Europeans ending up as slaves (in addition to black slaves). And there is interesting history of the Barbary Corsairs taking people from the coastal areas of various European countries...and of course, the aristocracy in England and other places did not really work hard to get the people back, however, some did finally get their freedom. But many lived out their lives in slavery. This book is definitely worth the money! If you are looking for a really interesting book to read - this is the one!!

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