White Gold

The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam's One Million White Slaves

Giles Milton

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The true story of white European slaves in eighteenth century Algiers, Tunis, and Morocco

In the summer of 1716, a Cornish cabin boy named Thomas Pellow and fifty-one of his comrades were captured at sea by the Barbary corsairs. Their captors--Ali Hakem and his network of Islamic slave traders--had declared war on the whole of Christendom. France, Spain, England and Italy had suffered a series of devastating attacks. Thousands of Europeans had been snatched from their homes and taken in chains to the great slave markets of Algiers, Tunis and Salé in Morocco.

Pellow and his shipmates were bought by the tyrannical sultan of Morocco, Moulay Ismail, who was constructing an imperial palace of such scale and grandeur that it would surpass every other building in the world, a palace built entirely by Christian slave labor.

Resourceful, resilient, and quick-thinking, Pellow was selected by Moulay Ismail for special treatment, and was one of the fortunate few who survived to tell his tale.

An extraordinary and shocking story, drawn from unpublished letters and manuscripts written by slaves and by the padres and ambassadors sent to free them, White Gold reveals a disturbing and long forgotten chapter of history.


Read an Excerpt

White Gold
IA NEW AND DEADLY FOETHE PALE DAWN sky gave no inkling of the terror that was about to be unleashed. A sea mist hung low in the air, veiling the horizon in a damp and diaphanous shroud. It enabled the mighty fleet to slip silently up the English Channel, unnoticed by the porters and fishermen on Cornwall's southwestern coast.The lookout who first sighted the vessels was perplexed. It was not the season for the return of the Newfoundland fishing fleet, nor was a foreign flotilla expected in those waters. As the mists lifted and the summer skies cleared, it became apparent that the


Praise for White Gold

Praise from Britain for White Gold :

"White Gold is lively, and diligently researched, a chronicle of cruelty on a grand scale. An unfailingly entertaining piece of popular history." --Sunday Telegraph

"[Giles Milton] is a popular, non-academic historian drawn to dramatic, even bizarre subjects, researched in highly enterprising ways, and told in a vividly swashbuckling style. An exciting and sensational account of a really swashbuckling historical episode, White Gold will do very well for this summer's beach read." --The Spectator

"White Gold delivers on its promise of exotic thrills." --Rhoda Koenig, The Evening Standard

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Giles Milton

  • Giles Milton is the author of Samurai William (FSG, 2003), The Riddle and the Knight (FSG, 2001), Big Chief Elizabeth (FSG, 2000) and Nathaniel's Nutmeg (FSG, 1999). He lives in London.
  • Giles Milton Alexandra Milton





    Available Formats and Book Details

    White Gold

    The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam's One Million White Slaves

    Giles Milton

    • e-Book