Captives and Corsairs: France and Slavery in the Early Modern Mediterranean

By Gillian Weiss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
Manumission and Absolute Monarchy

In March 1660, Louis XIV entered Marseille through a breach in the ramparts, and fifty-seven former slaves with a Trinitarian escort filed into Paris.1 With the first gesture, one usually reserved for a conquered city, the Sun King asserted dominion over a notoriously rebellious territory at the margins of his realm whose inhabitants had threatened to “give themselves over to the Turk” rather than submit to royal authority.2 With the second, though it occurred in his absence, he claimed sovereignty over a group of potentially diseased, deviant, and disloyal subjects returned from “infidel” lands to France’s sacred center. These two ceremonies of possession took place 486 miles apart, but they shared a common message: the ascendant power of a monarch poised for marriage and personal rule whose bid to construct a formidable, prosperous, and cohesive polity depended on the co-option of volatile places and peoples—and the symbolic expurgation of Islam.3

During the next ten years, Marseille received a monopoly over the kingdom’s flagging Mediterranean trade, a new arsenal to accommodate royal galleys for patrolling French shores, and a modernized lazaret for quarantining suspected plague carriers. That is, it was transformed from a maritime outpost with suspect allegiances yet de facto responsibility for Franco-North African relations into a cosmopolitan port with an imposing citadel and formal oversight over all goods and individuals entering France from Muslim territories.4 Over the same period, the number of Frenchmen and women detained in North Africa surpassed two thousand.5 As in the past, a portion of the captives consisted of unlucky fishermen and ill-fated pilgrims. But now that the crown, under the influence of minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, had pledged itself to naval, commercial, and colonial expansion, those abducted included ever more sailors, shipbuilders, merchants, explorers, and, occasionally, sub-Saharan African slave traders. Their servitude was thus a

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Captives and Corsairs: France and Slavery in the Early Modern Mediterranean
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Note on the Text xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One- Mediterranean Slavery 7
  • Chapter Two- Salvation without the State 27
  • Chapter Three- Manumission and Absolute Monarchy 52
  • Chapter Four- Bombarding Barbary 72
  • Chapter Five- Emancipation in An Age of Enlightenment 92
  • Chapter Six- Liberation and Empire from the Revolution to Napoleon 118
  • Chapter Seven- North African Servitude in Black and White 131
  • Chapter Eight- The Conquest of Algiers 156
  • Conclusion 170
  • Reference Matter 173
  • Abbreviations 175
  • Appendix 1- Slave Numbers 179
  • Notes 221
  • Bibliography 325
  • Index 379
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