White Gold-Tales of the Barbary Pirates

image of barbary pirate galleon
Barbary pirate galleons were common place in 18th century

Book Review of White Gold by Giles Milton and published in 2004 by Hodder & Stoughton

What is the book about?

Against the backdrop of 17th and 18th centuries, it tells the story of slavery in the Barbary states of North Africa.

Who are the principal characters?

Young Thomas Pellow and his nemesis, Moulay Ismail, Sultan of Morocco.

Thomas Pellow was aged eleven when he set sail from his home in Cornwall on a voyage to Genoa in Italy on the good ship Francis.

image of barbary pirates' ship
Barbary pirates’ sailing ships attack a vessel flying the royal flag of France

His ship carried a cargo of pilchards and had six crew on board and his uncle as captain.

After successfully slipping through the straits of Gibraltar and delivering their cargo, they were homeward bound when intercepted off Cape Finisterre and captured along with two other British ships by pirates.

Operating from North African ports from Sale to Tripoli, the Barbary corsairs found rich pickings capturing white Christians who were then sold in the slave markets of Algiers and Marrakesh.

The Sultan is the other leading character. Totally unhinged by his power, he is the ultimate despot who enjoys having his slaves sawn in half.

image of slave girls enduring slave market
Girls endure the horrors of the slave market

When a number of his 4,000 concubines are disobedient he has their teeth slowly pulled out.

And after his favourite mistress is falsely accused of infidelity, he promptly has her strangled.

His most successful wife keeps him happy with a constant supply of virgins, freshly captured.

Book Description- White Gold

Thomas is one of a group of fifty two luckless Christian captives who are brought ashore in Morocco in 1715.

Stripped of their possessions, to their horror they are forced into underground slave pens in sweltering heat rivalling anything described in the Black Hole of Calcutta or the Count of Monti Cristo.

image of slave girl
Traders inspect a girl at the slave market

Marched overland to the Sultan’s capital at Meknes they are used as forced labour on grandiose building projects.

Barely fed and regularly whipped, the Christian slaves are on the brink of starvation and death.

Their only hope of salvation is to be ransomed by their government.  However these are largely ineffectual as the Sultan wants payment in guns.

Yet Thomas finds another way out.

At first he is given as a gift to one of the sultan’s many sons and abused and tortured.

However after he is forced to convert to Islam he is given a measure of freedom.

He discovers the Sultan is maintained in power by fellow renegades who serve in his army, yet having been abandoned by their own Christian governments have nowhere else to go.

Echoes of todays in western recruits to ISIS perhaps…

Thomas’ adventures continue until his final escape and return home some 23 years later.

image of White Gold by Giles Milton book cover
Book cover of White Gold by Giles Milton

Extremely well written and highly readable White Gold is an eye opener about a darker side of history which has been largely ignored.

A must read for all supporters of Black Lives Matter and those who want to know the truth.

The reader is left pondering;

Is this book about the racism of the Arabs against Europeans?

Or religious conflict between Christians and Muslims?

Or the exploits of a Sultan turned robber baron grabbing hostages to swap for guns in order to subjugate neighbouring fellow Muslims?

It has the power to change your mind and expand your views.


Royal Escape Race 2015



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here