A particular case in point would be the Barbary States of North Africa. The Barbary States - Algiers, Morocco, Tunis and Tripoli – from the 11th Century up until the 19th century raided European ports, plundered their sea commerce and seized their ships, holding the people on-board to ransom or selling them into slavery. Contradicting the narrative created by Europeans in the nineteenth century as the industrial revolution started to kick in – that white people were more naturally more advanced than black people – the Barbary ships were simply more advanced than the European’s.
An informative article by the BBC on the topic of Africa and the slave trade had this to say on the matter:
“Some have argued that some African kingdoms were more socially and economically advanced than many European countries before 1500.
In the 14th century, the West African empire of Mali was larger than Western Europe, and reputed to be one of the richest and most powerful states in the world.
Historians continue to debate how and why African kingdoms and traders became so actively involved the slave trade.”
Indeed, the Barbary pirates had such a mastery over the surrounding waters that in Ireland, 1631, almost the entire population of the village of Baltimore was taken away by corsair raiders overnight, an event which became known as the Sack of Baltimore. The town remained practically uninhabited for decades. Even more shockingly, it is thought that around 1.5 million Americans and Europeans became slaves in Islamic North Africa from 1530 and 1780. However, this is still nowhere near the number of slaves shipped across the Atlantic, which is thought to be in the region of over 11 million – with around a million dying on the journey across that vast ocean. The same goes for the number of east African people enslaved by the Arab world, thought to be anywhere between 9.4 and 14 million, according to the BBC.
The Barbary ships dominated the Mediterranean waters to such an extent and they were so feared by western powers that they demanded tribute from nations who wanted to pass through and trade in their waters – and they were duly paid. It wasn’t until the famous revolutionary for American independence from British tyranny, President Thomas Jefferson, was prepared to fight against the Barbary states that their oppressive rule over the area started to recede in the early 19th century. (Pity that Thomas Jefferson was himself a slave owner, and as a founding Father of the United States of America allowed slavery to continue in the new nation. By contrast, after a valiant struggle by figures like William Wilberforce, Britain would ban the slave trade in 1807 and ban slavery outright in 1833. It would turn out to be a decision which cost America dear, as less than a hundred years later in 1861 the country would fall into civil war partly, if not largely, over the matter of whether slavery should be permitted in the “land of the free”. And still the legacy of white supremacy in America continues.)
Sources: - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/6445941.stm
Image: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons