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

By Gillian Weiss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Bombarding Barbary

Louis XIV had lied. The dey found out in the fall. Despite assenting to a captive exchange, the Sun King never intended to free able-bodied Algerians from the royal galleys. As one rower complained, “We are told after this campaign liberty, and this liberty never comes. Now we all believe we are being mocked, that it is only imaginary liberty [they promise].”1 In October 1681, his country declared war on France, and in the course of six weeks the number of French slaves in Algiers burgeoned by three hundred.2 “There are already twelve French prizes in this port: four ships and eights boats from Provence and Brittany,” testified an enslaved Marseille merchant, Laurent Gracier, cautioning that if the monarch did not quickly mend relations, “commerce will be gravely damaged… and many poor people among whom I unfortunately number will suffer.”3

In the short term, he was right: France’s initial offensives proved destructive yet ineffective. But repeated salvos against Algiers and Tripoli in the 1680s and 1690s did release a flood of slaves. Just as important, they demonstrated the crown’s newfound ability to impose its will on the Ottoman regencies, which in turn helped shift the power dynamic between France and the eastern portion of North Africa. An ascendant France in the Mediterranean enhanced Louis XIV’s crusading credentials and intensified the symbolic insult of Barbary captivity. Meanwhile, further royal over local involvement in saving Christians from Muslim lands broadened expectations of who deserved to be free, even as redemption by the king’s command became a more explicit means of establishing who counted as French.


ASSAULT ON ALGIERS

In 1682 Louis XIV picked the Huguenot naval officer Abraham Duquesne to bomb North Africa into submission. That a Protestant spent the years

-72-

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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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