- Hardcover: 316 pages
- Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux; 1st American ed edition (June 1 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374289352
- ISBN-13: 978-0374289355
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 24.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 612 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #624,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam's One Million White Slaves Hardcover – Jun 1 2005
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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.
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
Top customer reviews
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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.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
It's an exciting read, a proverbial 'page turner', and a perfect blend of story telling and history. Milton masterfully interweaves backstory and general history with Pellow's saga. I would hate to use another cliche...but I really couldn't put it down!
Its a shame the WP post reviewer uses it as excuse to vent his political views, and browbeat us with nonsense about 'Orientalism', I would highly recommend this book as an introduction to an all but forgotten part of our history (Yes Alsan, us, as in European Christians). I imagine like Aslan are afraid of this book because the indisputable facts shatter their victim status, and takes away a 'tool' by which to guilt-trip Europeans and Americans. After all if we were 'victims' of slavery, all the sudden 'imperialism' and 'white privilege' lose their sting.
A few examples of Aslan's bias:
"in which his 11-year-old self patiently endures month after month of horrific torture, administered by the crown prince himself, with whom Pellow remarkably engages in a quasi-theological debate (in Arabic or English, one can't tell which) before finally submitting to Islam -- is so absurd that the reader is stunned to find Milton swallowing the tale whole."
Milton specifically points out that Pellow was an exceptionally bright lad in school - and back in the 17th/18th century someone educated his age (11) would have had a firm grasp of theology ("college" students usually graduated at age 18 or so) in an age where a century later 12 year old future Admiral Farragut would skipper a ship around cape horn its not inconceivable a boy might know a thing or two about theology. It is also documented and corroborated the Pellow rose to high service at young age because of his intelligence. Yet Aslan sneers it's 'absurd' but offers no reason why. Nor does he offer any reason why corroborated stories of Ismail's evil and brutality should not be accepted. He apparently wants us to feel 'wrong' for believing that a man who practiced mass slavery and perfectly willing to murder half brothers (a common occurrence in Muslim royal families) could be brutal.
"That White Gold merely regurgitates Pellow's "memoirs" is even more troubling because Milton enthusiastically adopts the outmoded vocabulary of the era, repeatedly referring in his book to "Christian" slaves and even "Christian" vessels being captured by "Muslim" pirates and sold to "Muslim" masters"
Well Aslan they would only enslave Christians and non Muslims, defined themselves as Muslim and the Koran specifically allowed slavery, where at the same time, anti-slavery movements were taking root in Christendom, if I am 'allowed' to use that 'dated' term.
Why the Washington Post chose this guy to review the book remains a mystery - but they clearly wanted a negative review.