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White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa's One Million European Slaves

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  971 ratings  ·  121 reviews
This is the forgotten story of the million white Europeans, snatched from their homes and taken in chains to the great slave markets of North Africa to be sold to the highest bidder. Ignored by their own governments, and forced to endure the harshest of conditions, very few lived to tell the tale.

Using the firsthand testimony of a Cornish cabin boy named Thomas Pellow, Gi
Paperback, 316 pages
Published May 1st 2005 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published June 7th 2004)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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Start your review of White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa's One Million European Slaves
Jan 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pub-2004
Initially I was under the impression that this book is a historical novel, so I wasted first 20 pages waiting for the novel to start. Once I realised it was actually historical non fiction I started really enjoying it. Milton unearthenes some little known part of world history and delivers it to us in a very exciting form. Who does not like stories about pirates and Moroccan sultans? Here definitely crueler than in Disney films. And the moral is: slavery is bad and all humans are equally capable ...more
Andrea Zuvich
Jan 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My thoughts in two words: utterly brilliant. This should be required reading in schools along with learning about the Black Slave Trade. I thought this was very well-written, exceptionally well-researched, and an engaging read. That being said, the high amount of descriptions of torture, genital mutilation, beatings, and murder made me - a seasoned reader of violent history works - put it down at times. Although the majority of this book takes place in the eighteenth century (due to Thomas Pello ...more
Jessica O'Toole
A riveting multi-sourced account of a majorly overlooked era of European history, the reasons for which you may make of as you will. Also, the author provides a fab bibliography of further reading of accounts of the Barbary (or White) Slave Trade as told by those who were captured and lived, or the opinions of their contemporaries, and a fantastic introduction to the extraordinary life of Thomas Pellow.

It was Pellow's sharp and smart nature that led him to follow his uncle on his ship, which mad
Until reading Giles Milton's book I hadn't realised the extent of "White Slave Trade" in 18th century Europe and America.Moroccan pirates or Corairs were regularly both captury vessels at sea and selling their crews and passengers into slavery or carrying out raids on England's South-West coast and kidnapping men, women and children for this lucrative trade.
The slaves were treated with great brutality and many died in captivity, their only hope of improving their situation was to convert to Isla
Oct 20, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010
This book, typically of its author, was thoroughly engrossing and a remarkable historical tale. I found it fascinating that Thomas Pellow could survive in spite of the adversity of spending 23 years as a slave in Meknes, Morocco. He was captured and taken into slavery aged 11 and yet outlived those who were captured along with him, even though he was so young.

The cruel and barbarous treatment of white slaves during this period piqued my interest, which remained high throughout the duration of t
Nov 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Giles Milton is one of my favourite authors, bringing history to life with some remarkable personal tales of the people and places involved in some of the most significant, yet nevertheless obscure, historical events of the last few centuries.

This book is no exception. He brings the story of the million European slaves taken by the Barbary corsairs between the 16th and beginning of the 19th centuries via Thomas Pellow, a young cabin boy from Cornwall who, kidnapped at 12, would spend 23 years as
Peter Macinnis
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, travel
I read this book at a time when I had no plans of travelling to Morocco. Having just done so (it was an odd combination of events and research needs that made it happen), I cannot recommend this book too highly.

I'm glad to say that conditions have improved a great deal, but Giles Milton captures a sense of the time remarkably well, allowing the modern visitor on a rapid culture vulture tour to put things in context.

My only regret is that I didn't re-read it just before going: I lent it to a frie
Nadia Amina
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
When I got the book from my parents I was astonished at first. Of course, I knew about black slaves and the triangular trade, but I'd never heard of it before that there were so many white slaves.
The author manages to make his story very lively and to tell the incredible events in great detail, yet exciting.
I do not understand how it can be that so little is known about the white slave trade. The book has given me a new perspective on the history of slavery.
I would recommend anyone to read this
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A fascinating account of one white slave in particular and the white slave trade in general. Here's an excellent portrayal of the Barbary Corsairs and their trade in white slaves during the course of the mid 17th century until the destruction of Algiers in the early 19th century.

Highly recommended, my favourite Milton to date.
Oct 03, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction
So, as I'm reading the first part of this book, about how the Brits and other Europeans were snatched — sometimes right from their homes — and then transported in unthinkably awful conditions to slave pens almost as bad and then sold at auction as slaves, all I could think was how remarkably familiar it should all sound to anyone who's ever heard of the black slave trade. And I just kept waiting for Milton to draw the parallel, and remind us that it's not skin colour that makes this whole propos ...more
Isabel Hogue
Aug 03, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoyed learning about the history of western North Africa. I found and read the original narrative by Thomas Pellow (in pdf online), which is the basis for Milton's book. The original was very interesting to read.

I had some problems with Milton's narrative. Milton tried to do too much with all of his research. I had to read outside quite a bit to fully understand the story and its context. But I enjoy digging deeper into a subject, so thank you Mr. Milton for getting me started.

Milton totall
Kareem Shihab
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was spectacular! It reads like fiction novel but is actually a heavily researched histroy book. Very eye opening and rekindled my interest in Mideival North Africa and the middle east. Provides an accurate historical account of what life was like at the upper ends of society in the 17th century in Northwest Africa. Would love to see Werner Hertzog turn this into a movie. I particularly liked the descriptions of Mountain communities, as well as the descriptions of the royal court and of ...more
Jacquie South
Aug 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting book, bringing to light a part of history I had never been aware of before, and showing once again the amazing contradictions of humans. On one side the incredible cruelty and disregard for human life and suffering, and on the other side the amazing strength of the human spirit. Although written in a very factual way, this was still a good read, and certainly an eye-opener!
Lisa El
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Briefly: I read this book because my husband is Moroccan and we spend a lot of time in Morocco. As a matter of fact, we just bought a house In Sale. Sale was the port where slaves were sent before being sent to Moulay Ismael.
This book is well written and because of my personal connection it was enthralling.
Final lesson is that people in all cultures can be brutal.
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Started to read this as I knew there was some connection with Admiral George Delaval of Seaton Delaval Hall and wanted to know more.

An incredible aspect of our history that I was almost totally unaware of. What a murderous, capricious bunch they were.

Well written book that is partly constructed in a narrative format so you follow a chronology based on one character.
Jesse Karjalainen
I could not put this book down. Fascinating and terrifying at the same time.
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
excellent - well written, good pace, plenty of fact - I'm off to the bookshop to find more of Giles Milton's writing!
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A swashbuckling, fantastically-told history of the Barbary Pirates and their (300 year!) trade in white slaves. Interesting and riveting.
Nov 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: sruk-book-club
I didn't know anything about Christian slave trade in North Africa, and judging by the numbers share in this book, it affected Spain greatly: I guess it's a part of History that Spain (a mighty Empire at the time) didn't want to acknowledge.

White Gold is a very thorough work, a patient collection of witnesses' accounts of what was happening in the Barbary. We learn how poorly slaves lived, how little their lives mattered, how cruel slave owners were. We see how politics played a role, with count
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating! An area I've read very little about. Interesting to think about millions of Europeans sold into slavery in Africa was a real thing for generations with slave ships raiding as far as Iceland to capture people to be shipped to Africa to be slaves. Our popular culture has plenty of stories we tell reflecting people from Africa being sent into slavery into other parts of the world but basically nothing about Europe to Africa.

Some of the stories of brutality were pretty horrifying. Plen
Will Nelson
Nov 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
One episode from early U.S. history which seems particularly strange today is the struggle with the "Barbary" pirates, which took place during the Jefferson administration. Few people realize that the U.S. Navy was originally created to wage war with the North African muslim states which sponsored these pirates. This book provides the dramatic and even shocking backstory to that episode.

In fact these "Corsairs" had been the scourge of European shipping as well as coastal communities for centurie
May 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read. I had no idea "white slavery" was anything more than a tiny issue, but there were apparently a million European slaves captured and taken to Africa both from ships at sea and from coastal towns in their own countries, in the 17th and 18th centuries. North African pirate raiders went around the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, taking slaves from France, Spain, Portugal, Britain and even as far as Iceland. This book focuses on slaves held in the massive city-palace ...more
The story of white slavery in the 18th century generally, but following specifically the story of Thomas Pellow, an eleven year old cabin boy, who was captured by the Moroccan Corsairs in 1716. North Africa - Morocco and Algeria mainly, but making use of markets in Tunisia and Libya also, engaged in piracy, and ravaged the coasts of Spain, Portugal, France and Britain, taking prisoners from land and capturing ships seemingly at will. It seems amazing the Barbary Corsairs were so much more domina ...more
In White Gold, Giles Milton, author of Nathaniel's Nutmeg: How One Man's Courage Changed the Course of History, brings his style of narrative history to an examination of the trade in white slaves in North Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The subject is fascinating in and of itself, and as always Milton draws on extensive and diverse sources included never-published original correspondence and writes in a clear but informative manner. However, in 'White Gold' he finds a much stronger narra
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
When my friend and I went to London for a working holiday her mother told us to watch out for white slave traffickers. We had to end all letters to her with 'is the sideboard still smiling' - a reference to her false teeth which came out every night. This was to indicate that the letter had not been written under duress because we had been captured and were spending our days languishing in a seraglio. She was actually on to something. White slave trafficking had been around for a while - a bit b ...more
If you think you are having a bad day, think of Thomas Pellow. At the age of 11 he is captured and sent to the court of the sultan of Morocco as a slave. He is starved and tortured to convert to Islam. He becomes part of the tyrannical and mad sultan Moulay Ismail's court and witnesses countless beheadings and other barbaric acts. Later he becomes part of the sultan's army and fought various rebellions. After two failed escape attempts and 24 years in slavery he finally returns to Cornwall.
Douglas White
Sep 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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' experien
Zelah Meyer
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
While covering a much darker subject matter than my fiction tastes lean towards, I found this to be a tragic but fascinating account. My husband was reading it, and when I flicked through the book to see what it was about, I soon became hooked. The sufferings experienced need no exageration. I was glad to find that they were recounted in a way that kept the gripping nature of the lad's troubles, while keeping the slight element of detachment that non-fiction provides you. I don't think I could h ...more
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
I remember picking this book up at a bookshop, it was part of a buy 3 for bargain price. Turned out to be the best book out of the bunch. I loved the way it was written and the lesser known story about how white slaves lived during captivity. This author is certainly one I would read time and again. A good story well written, and difficult to put down.
Sep 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Read thriugh cahpter 5. Sordid tales of the white slave rings off the northern coast of Afica. Barbaric muslims in the name of money - late 1600's, early 1700's. Scary how little that area has changed.
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British writer and journalist Giles Milton was born in Buckinghamshire in 1966. He has contributed articles for most of the British national newspapers as well as many foreign publications, and specializes in the history of travel and exploration. In the course of his researches, he has traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East, Japan and the Far East, and the Americas.

Knowledgeable, insati

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