Breaking the Chains: The Royal Navy's War on White Slavery
With potent echoes of the current War on Terror , this book tells how the leading Great Power of the 19th century organized a coalition to eradicate a deep-rooted aspect of anti-Western policy in Moslem countries. This confrontation between Europe and Islamic North Africa, and eventually the Ottoman Empire, concerned Christian slavery, a trade pursued by the piratical Barbary States. For centuries weaker trading nations had paid them protection money to leave their shipping alone, but the basic principle of slavery was unchallenged. With the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 this cause reached the top of the political agenda and in 1816 a large Anglo-Dutch fleet attacked Algiers and forced the local ruler to release 3000 European slaves. This was the beginning of a concerted, and essentially naval, assault on the practice, which the Moslem world came to see as a religious and racist war, a revival of the crusades. When the Greeks rebelled against the rule of the Ottoman Empire in 1821, they too were seen as Christian slaves. After a long and bitter struggle, the turning point was a sea battle, at Navarino in 1827, which proved a crushing defeat for the Ottoman forces. It was inflicted by a British-French-Russian peace-keeping force operating under confused and contradictory rules of engagement, and initially it was dismissed by an embarrassed British government as an untoward event . However, Greek independence was effectively assured. This story, full of larger-than-life characters, is told with all the verve to be expected from Tom Pocock, the author of many bestselling books on the Nelsonic era.