Colonial and postcolonial Algeria continues to haunt French domestic affairs. Crisis in the banlieues (suburbs), a disputed law about textbooks, and debates about headscarves all manifest the nation’s unease with addressing discrimination, acknowledging violence, and accommodating diversity born of a nineteenth- and twentieth-century past. The previous chapters have suggested that understanding the relationship between North Africa and France, in fact, requires a longer lens—back to the early modern period, and toward a shared history of galleys and bagnes, captives and corsairs.
For about two hundred years Mediterranean slavery was a reciprocal, religiously justified reality. It made tens of thousands of French Christians and North African Muslims into coerced laborers and speculative investments—with horrific personal, familial, and social consequences. During that period and for much longer, Mediterranean slavery was also a figment of the French imagination. It inspired fears and aspirations—about subjection and domination, defilement and decontamination—which friars, kings, consuls, and emperors drew on first to foster sovereign allegiance and then to defend territorial expansion.
From the sixteenth century onward, targeting particular captives from coastal areas, ransom efforts sought primarily to avert plague, sodomy, and apostasy and to establish attachment to France. After the mid-seventeenth century, targeting all French (and some foreign) Catholics, deliverance by salvo also attempted to demonstrate resolve against heretics and infidels, buttressing the monarch’s reputation as protector of Latin Christendom and establishing a link between Frenchness, faith, and freedom. By the Revolution, targeting new nationals, diplomacy backed by force served as a tool for the secular goal of regeneration, personal and political. Turning foreign captives into loyal Frenchmen, while asserting dominion over not just contiguous provinces but also in-