Sweden and Barbary. Captivity and Ransom Slavery in the Early Modern Mediterranean

Project: Research

Project Details

Layman's description

During the early modern period, Swedish seamen and merchants sailing to the Mediterranean were subject to attack by Muslim privateers who attempted to seice their cargo and carry their crew to the slave markets of North Africa. This project examines - for the first time - the swedish captives, the reactions at home, and the devolepment of the Swedish ransoming system.

It was the need for cheaper salt that led Swedish ships to make their way to the Mediterranean and its salt ports in the mid-17th century. However, the cost of this trade expansion included many human lives. This project concerns the Swedish seamen who were captured by Muslim privateers from North Africa to be sold on slave markets or used as forced labour or for extortion. What was the significance of this experience for the Swedes who were captured and enslaved in premodern North Africa and how were their experiences understood and dealt with by relatives and others at home in Sweden? These questions have never previously been answered.
The project recalls a forgotten captivity culture comprising cultural practices such as national collections and ransom payments, as well as tales of slavery in sea shanties, newspaper articles and literature, and letters and books from the captives and their relatives in North Africa. It is also pioneering in highlighting how guarantees for the safety of the individual were created in the past. Important questions address how the state acted when its citizens found themselves in crisis far away in an alien culture. What role did financial, state, ethnic and civil aspects play in ransom action? Did the action taken in Northern Europe differ from that taken in Southern Europe? What attitudes towards North Africa were disseminated in newspapers, sea shanties and literature in Sweden? How did the Swedish slavery tales compare to their European
Effective start/end date2009/01/012011/12/31