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Title: Black African slaves in Malta
Other Titles: Mediterranean seascapes : proceedings of an International Conference held in Malta in conjunction with Euromed Heritage II, Navigation du Savoir Project (Valletta, 2004)
Authors: Wettinger, Godfrey
Keywords: Malta -- History -- Knights of Malta, 1530-1798
Slavery -- Malta -- History
Slaves -- Social conditions -- Malta
Issue Date: 2006
Publisher: Malta University Publishers Ltd.
Citation: Wettinger, G. (2006). Black African slaves in Malta. In S. Mercieca (Ed.), Mediterranean seascapes : proceedings of an International Conference held in Malta in conjunction with Euromed Heritage II, Navigation du Savoir Project (Valletta, 2004) (pp. 65-82). Msida: Malta University Publishers Ltd.
Abstract: My study of Slavery in Malta originally entitled Some Aspects of Slavery in Malta during the Rule of the Order was first conceived to deal principally with the slaves or prisoners that resulted from the never ending Crusade fought by the Order of St John with the Turks and Moors in the Mediterranean Sea and on its shores. One’s first impression was that it would deal almost entirely with white or off-white captives who were former inhabitants of the shores and towns of Tunisia, Tripolitania, Algeria and the Levant including the rest of the Ottoman Empire. Although people in Malta still speak of iswed Tork, “as black as a Turk”, the latter meaning a Muslim and without precise ethnic significance, and a number of old town houses have the statue of a black African slave at the head of the staircase, it still seemed as if the typical slave in Malta during early modern times was a Moor or Turk, of whom it is known Malta had a constant number that varied between 500 early in the sixteenth century, went up to about a couple of thousands in the seventeenth century and perhaps exceeded three thousands in the opening decades of the eighteenth century, to be gradually reduced during the course of that century until it was finally ended by the operations both of the Emperor of Morocco and finally of General Bonaparte and later Maltese authorities. Black African slaves seemed an insignificant issue. However, in writing Chapter One of the book, the chapter concerned with the pre-1530 period, I realized much better than I had ever done previously that a large proportion of the privately owned slaves in Malta before the arrival of the Order were described as Etiopico or di Etiopia, meant for a black African slave not a Moor from the Maghreb (Morocco to Tripolitania). In fact no less than 23 slaves in private ownership recorded in various transactions before 1530 were positively identified as Etiopico, four as black, two as Moors or Arabs, and nine had no ethnic description. It is clear that slaves in private ownership were then predominantly black African in racial origin. It is quite possible that the close kinship which was probably then still felt with Moors or Arabs explains the rarity of slaves of that origin1. In later records there are repeated references to Bornu as the country of origin of the African slaves. This was situated in that part of Africa just west of Lake Chad, and was described in the fourteenth end sixteenth century by Ibn Battuta and Leo Africanus, though not necessarily reliably. It is first mentioned so far as is known in the Maltese records in 1614 and last in 1784.
ISBN: 9990944318
Appears in Collections:Mediterranean seascapes

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