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Slavery - A Dangerous Historical Subject?


Aristocratic merchant (representative of the Grand Sharif) with his Circassian slave. Photographic atlas of Mecca, Hague, 1888-1889. Taken in 1886-1887
Meccan merchant and his Circassian slave

Three Degrees of Separation

  1. When I was thinking about what the core subject would be for the fifth book in the Last Librarian Series I searched for events in the past that had happened in Alexandria in Egypt as that was where the Royal Alexanrian Library was hidden. The subject that jumped off the page at me was the British bombardment of Alexandria in 1882, when the British were trying to stop the Urabi Revolt that if successful, would result in the disruption of their joint ownership with the French of the Suez Canal.

  2. At the same time I delved into my notes about missing or lost libraries and books, that form the basis for the subject of each book in the Last Librarian Series, and there was the library of Celsus in Ephesus in present day Turkey and there alongside it a mention that only one book written by St Clement still existed. Only one book written by the Second Pope of Rome, surely not! And where was Clement supposedly drowned by the Romans and subsequently made a saint - Chersonesus in the Crimea.

  3. And when I started researching the history of the Crimea I was amazed to learn of the enslaving and slave trading activities of the Crimean Tatars who were/are descendents of the Mongols, whose pastoral and nomadic empire depended to a large degree on the enslavement of the peoples they conquered.

That was when I started to feel both a little nervous and excited. Slavery was a touchy subject with a lot of people with very strong views about it, particularly in the USA, as almost wherever I researched the dominant subject was the enslavement of Africans and their transportation across the Atlantic (mostly to South rather than North America interestingly). But then I discovered a small number of academic articles on the marauding enslavement activities of the Tatars, only to discover that it had been going on for centuries and the estimated numbers of enslaved Europeans over time was enormous. Further still the position of the Crimea at the northern end of the Black Sea, and their deep water ports, made for the perfect business base for trading slaves to Asia Minor, North Africa and the rest of the Mediterranean area.


Alan W Fisher wrote in his publication, 'The Crimean Tatars', Stanford, Hoover Institution Press, 1978, on p. 27.


'From 1468, the time of the first recorded Tatar raid in the northern steppe, until the end of the seventeenth century, Tatar raiders made almost annual forays into Slavic agricultural communities in the north searching for captives to sell as slaves. It is understandable that Slavic historians describe these events with dismay; yet viewed from a less emotional or nationalistic perspective, these slave raids can be seen as a very successful economic activity that produced the means by which the Tatars developed a lively urban and cultural society.'


There is a Ukranian folk song that seems to sum up the pain and drama of the Tatar raids into Ukraine.


The fires are burning behind the river— TheTatars are dividing their captives. Our village is burnt

And our property plundered. Old mother is sabred

And my dear is taken into captivity.


The slave trade continued well into the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries more than five hundred and fifty years since its inception, even if latterly there were no more aggressive raids into Russia and the Slavic countries, and it was only in 1924 that the Ottomans abolished slavery.


A really interesting read can be found by Miss Pardoe and published in 1837 in which she describes amongst other things, visitiong a harem in a Turkish home in Constantinople, in which she is served by slaves. Her book is available free as a pdf and is titled THE CITY OF THE SULTAN; AND DOMESTIC MANNERS OF THE TURKS, IN 1836. It can be found on Gutenberg,org or other archive websites.


There are other academic papers and if it is a subject in which you may have an interest, I would recommend the work by DARIUS ZKOLODZIEJCZYK of WARSAW UNIVERSITY) entitled:-

SLAVE HUNTING AND SLAVE REDEMPTION AS A BUSINESS ENTERPRISE: THE NORTHERN BLACK SEA REGION IN THE SIXTEENTH TO SEVENTEENTH CENTURIES, in which I found the folk song above.


There are more papers on the subject and if you are interested you can contact me on the email address on my website https://www.johncdegroot.com.


I was subsequently challenged to write a book about the wider subject of slavery, but I think there are many more academics who are qualified to do so. So I'll stick to fiction for the moment.


The End Result


Here on the left is the cover image for my recently published book, The Inkerman Slaves. Click on the image if you'd like to read the first few chapters FREE.


The story not only provides more information about the Tatars and their slavery business, this time in the late nineteenth century, but also suggests what may have happened to St Clement. It also poses what may have happened to the Library of Constantinople supposedly destroyed, at least in part, by the Franks and Venetians during the FourthCrusade.


Live through the British bombardment of Alexandria, travel with our heroine Amanishakete on a British Ironclad warship, then as Captain of a captured Corsair as she battles other Mediterranean pirates. Has confrontations with the Russians in Sevastopol and travels on one of the first Express d'Orient train journeys from Constantinople to Paris as she unravels the story of St Clement and falls in love. She saves the niece of Queen Victoria from slavery, battles a Crimean slavery ring and helps to save Europe from the ambitions of Otto von Bismark.

Maybe one day I'll write that book on slavery?


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