Coastal dwellers and those who traveled by ship constantly risked capture, violence, and exploitation at the hands of Barbary Coast Muslims.As part of this jihad against Christianity begun in 1500, piracy and slaving were the main instruments used to deprive infidel communities of useful, productive citizens and to acquire booty.Galley slaves, who basically worked themselves to death to help their masters seize more slaves, rowed shirtless, received pitifully meager rations, and typically fouled themselves at their stations, while being tormented by rats, fleas, and various parasites.
Further, in ravaged European communities, churches were preoccupied with raising funds to rescue enslaved community members.
Churches made constant, desperate attempts to acquire donations to free those in bondage.
Single ships rarely yielded as much booty as land raids, but they offered greater potential to acquire skilled tradesmen and seamen.
Plus, those on board ships could often be coerced to divulge the location of stowed valuables and the wealth status of passengers.
In Tunis and Tripoli, 10 to 20% of inhabitants were slaves.
Some European coastal communities became virtual ghost towns as residents fled to escape the perils of seafaring Muslim corsairs, Davis writes.According to Davis’s research, the extent of the Barbary Coast slavery enterprise was so significant that fully one quarter of the population of Algiers were slaves during this period.The entire existence of the city was predicated on piracy and slave running.Slave raids caused long-term and significant economic distress for affected communities, and hefty ransom demands rearranged property relationships.A villager who rescued a family member might be forced to relinquish title to land, a house, or a boat and find himself in the unenviable position of working the land or on the boat he had previously owned prior to his relative’s captivity.It was also well established and ideologically sanctioned in the Muslim world from the days of Mohammed.