03 December 2010

At the Seaside - Part Five

When you think of the seaside, does the song Rule Britannia spring to mind? Perhaps ideas of slavery comes to mind, however, especially if some of your ancestors were slaves and/or slave owners.

If you think about the seaside as a pleasant holiday destination in southern France, Spain, Italy or Portugal, or anywhere else in Europe with an accessible, sun drenched coastline, would you have thought the same way before the mid 19th century? If you had been on a European beach until quite recently, you may have been taken aboard a ship by the Barbary corsairs.

I am very glad my ancestors did not live near the sea:

Wikipedia - Rule, Britannia!

Wikipedia - Slavery in medieval Europe

Wikipedia - Slavery in the Ottoman Empire

Wikipedia - Barbary corsairs

There is something quite contradictory in all of this, however. You may be aware that the United States' Navy was formed in 1798 to fight Barbary pirates. The pirates had enslaved white American sailors. Who was fighting to free slaves in various parts of the Americas at that time?

Wikipedia - First Barbary War (1801-1805)

Wikipedia - French invasion of Algiers in 1830

Wikipedia - Slavery in the British and French Caribbean

Wikipedia - Impressment in Britain

To me, Rule Britannia should not be thought of as a song about imperial dominance or jingoism. It is a song about protecting freedom, in my view, especially when sung with the original words. But I would like to change the words Britons never will be slaves to People never should be slaves.

Wikipedia - Britannia

Wikipedia - Liberty

Well, I might go off to the beach for a while now. You may like to read some of my other blog posts on similar subjects before I return:

A peace of chocolate

Freedom without force


A respectful exploration of identity

Understanding the world

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I especially appreciate historical insights.