European Slaves:
Christians in African
Pirate Encounters



Lecture “Piraterie, Korsarentum und Sklaverei: Der frühneuzeitliche Kaperkrieg auf dem Mittelmeer” at the Volkshochschule Zürich on May 16, 2023.

Book talk of Barbary Captives: An Anthology of Early Modern Slave Memoirs by Europeans in North Africa at the Columbia Global Centers Tunis on January 6, 2023.

Radio feature
"Versklavt im Mittelmeer – Als Christen und Moslems sich jagten," radioWissen, Bayern 2, September 12, 2022.

Review of Barbary Captives: An Anthology of Early Modern Slave Memoirs by Europeans in North Africa in Goodreads.

Newspaper article
“Vom Sklaven zum Bestsellerautor,” Die Presse, July 23, 2022.

Publication of Barbary Captives: An Anthology of Early Modern Slave Memoirs by Europeans in North Africa by Columbia University Press.

Review of Verschleppt, Verkauft, Versklavt: Deutschsprachige Sklavenberichte aus Nordafrika (1550–1800). Edition und Kommentar in Monatshefte.

Review of Mediterranean Slavery and World Literature: Captivity Genres from Cervantes to Rousseau in sehepunkte.

Review of Piracy and Captivity in the Mediterranean: 1550–1810 in sehepunkte.

Review of Verschleppt, Verkauft, Versklavt: Deutschsprachige Sklavenberichte aus Nordafrika (1550–1800). Edition und Kommentar in sehepunkte.

Review of Piraten und Sklaven im Mittelmeer: Eine Ausstellung von Schloss Ambras Innsbruck und der Universität Innsbruck in sehepunkte.

Review of Verschleppt, Verkauft, Versklavt: Deutschsprachige Sklavenberichte aus Nordafrika (1550–1800) in Historische Zeitschrift.

Review of Verschleppt, Verkauft, Versklavt: Deutschsprachige Sklavenberichte aus Nordafrika (1550–1800) in H-Soz-Kult.

Online article
"Ein weißer Sklave macht Karriere," RP Online, November 13, 2020, online.

Radio feature
"Diagonal zum Thema: Sklaverei," Ö1, February 29, 2020.
"Das Inhaltsverzeichnis," 4:28 min.
"Deutschsprachige Sklavenberichte aus Nordafrika," 5:01 min.

Online article
"Vormoderne Sklaverei am Mittelmeer",, December 6, 2019, online.

Newspaper article
"Piraten lockten 50.000 Besucher nach Ambras", Tiroler Tagezeitung, September 11, 2019.

Online article
Piraterie und Sklaverei: Auf Menschenjagd im MittelmeerDer Standard,  July 2, 2019, online.

Newspaper article
"Wie ein Tiroler Bauer von Piraten versklavt wurde", Tiroler Tageszeitung Magazin, July 15, 2018.

Newspaper article
"Menschenhandel im Mittelmeerraum", Die Presse, June 9, 2018.

Robert Spindler (Innsbruck), "Renegados: Converted Christians in British Barbary Captivity Narratives", International Symposium Buccaneers, Corsairs, Pirates and Privateers: Connecting the Early Modern Seas, Bielefeld University, 13.04.2018.

Robert Spindler (Innsbruck), "Three Early Modern Barbary Captivity Narratives in the German Language and their Portrayal of Islam", Mediterranean Collaborative, Consortium for the Study of the Premodern World at the University of Minnesota, 08.11.2017.

Robert Spindler (Innsbruck), "Masters, Agusins and Renegados: Portrayals of Muslims in Early Modern Barbary Captivity Narratives from Germany and Austria", SAGES Program, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, 04.11.2017.

Newspaper article
"Auf zum Entern!", Der Standard.

Robert Spindler (Innsbruck), "Merckwürdige Lebens- und Reisebeschreibung: Der Bericht des Johann Michael Kühn", Erzählen zwischen Fakt und Fiktion (workshop), Innsbruck, 23.02.2017.

German article about our conference on "Piracy and Captivity in the Mediterranean: 1530-1810" in Innsbruck.

Newspaper article
"Als christlicher Gefangener unter Piraten", Der Standard.

Contact us:

Mario Klarer
Principal investigator

+43 512 507 4172


Institut für Amerikastudien
Universität Innsbruck
Innrain 52d
6020 Innsbruck

Supported by a grant from the


Piracy and Captivity in the Mediterranean: 1530-1810
Barbary Coast Captivity Narratives

16 - 18 June 2016
University of Innsbruck, Austria, Europe

New: German article about our conference


Full Program as PDF File (includes Abstracts)

Flyer as PDF File


Call for Papers

(as PDF)

Usually, Africa is not the first continent that comes to mind when one reads about white slavery or narratives by European captives. Yet, captivity accounts by Christian slaves in Northern Africa, or the Barbary Coast, influenced early modern writers and public figures, such as Miguel de Cervantes, Daniel Defoe, Benjamin Franklin, or Thomas Jefferson. A large number of European and American Christians were slaves in the North African city-states of Algiers, Tripoli, Tunis, and Salé from the early16th to the early 19th century. Some of the slaves, who managed to escape or were ransomed, wrote narratives about their time in captivity after their return to their home countries.

Besides recounting the experiences and adventures of their protagonists, these Barbary Coast captivity narratives touch upon matters such as acculturation, the cultural and ethnic melting pot of the Barbary Coast, inter-Christian relations, the Islamic faith, as well as issues of gender, sexuality, and homecoming. Although many authors vilify Barbary Coast slavery, they often provide surprisingly balanced and positive evaluations of the Islamic religion and culture. As one of the most accessible sources of information on Islam and North Africa in the early modern period, these texts were tremendously popular and had a significant influence on the literature, art, politics, philosophy, and foreign politics of the countries subjected to the pirates’ attacks. The pirate activity was not only directed against countries located around the Mediterranean Sea but also affected German speaking countries, Great Britain, Scandinavia, the United States of America, or even far away islands as, for example, Iceland.

Until some years ago, interest in Barbary Coast captivity narratives was largely historical, as documents on slavery and piracy. The aim of this conference is to look at these narratives in a variety of languages from a literary perspective, while putting them into a proper historical, cultural context. Although the narratives as such stand at the center of the conference, we also invite papers that address larger issues pertinent to the pro­duction and reception of these texts. Besides literary scholars in the different philologies, we also especially welcome scholars from the fields of history, cultural studies, philosophy, theology, Islamic and Oriental studies, slavery studies, etc. Paper topics may include, but are not limited to, the following areas of inquiry:

Barbary Coast captivity narratives proper:
- the tension between fictionality and authenticity
- narratological features
- questions of cultural identity
- influences on the early novel and African American slave narratives
- the tension between Protestantism and Catholicism
- Muslim narratives of captivity in Europe

Barbary Coast slavery and piracy in general:
- diplomatic relations between North Africa and the Christian World
- piracy, politics, and economy on the Barbary Coast
- the role of the Barbary Coast in the development in the emerging United States
- Muslim perspectives on piracy and captivity
- the Trinitarians and other religious orders
- redemption practices
- Muslim slaves in Europe
- white slavery

Conference Participation

Please send conference paper titles with abstracts of about 300 words as a Word document to The deadline for submission is 30 November 2015.

November 13 - 14, 2014
we held a conference on "Perspectives on Northern Africa in the Early Modern Period: Piracy, Slavery, and Diplomacy" at Innsbruck. Speakers were Khalid Bekkaoui, Carsten Junker, Magnus Ressel, Joachim Oestlund, Elisabeth Watzka-Pauli, and Gillian Weiss.