Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

Dating from about 1740, the famous lines from the song ‘Rule Britannia’ proudly proclaim that “Britannia rules the waves. Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.”
Rule Britannia

Unfortunately, for the preceding 250 years, the reality wasn’t quite as triumphant the great anthem suggest. Between the beginning of the 16th century and the end of the 18th, thousands of Britons were slaves, seized by Barbary corsairs who operated out of North Africa.

Between 1530 and 1780 there were almost certainly 1 million and quite possibly as many as 1.25 million white, European Christians enslaved by the Muslims of the Barbary Coast. Men women and children dragged from their homes and enslaved. It is said that many English coastal towns and villages were abandoned as people moved inland to escape the ravages of the corsairs. I suppose it is too long ago to start a campaign and there won't be many statues to remove of North Africans who made their fortune from dealing in slaves.

Christian Slaves

A little digression as of July 3rd 2020: Sainsbury's has agreed to review all of its coconut products and Asda has vowed to drop the brands after a host of other supermarkets including Waitrose promised to remove them from sale on Wednesday. Carrie Symonds has thrown her weight behind the campaign to end the use of 'monkey slaves' in coconut farming after it was found that Thai coconut harvesters used monkeys on leads to climb up trees to harvest the fruit.

Could this lead to a world shortage of eggs if Carrie decides that keeping hens in small cages to produce our eggs is a form of slavery - just a thought, in case you have nothing to worry about.

There are records of slavery as far back as 3000BC and although it was abolished in the 1830s, I wonder if it continued, albeit in a different form?

The late 18th century saw the start of the industrial revolution when there must have been a radical change in employment. Farm labourers must have been little better than serfs, with day to day living dependent on the farmer for whom they worked.

Cotton mills
It must have seemed like freedom to move into the towns and in some form of industry with more regular hours and working inside rather than in the fields.

In the late 19th century, the Lancashire cotton industry employed something like half a million people. The wealthy Mill Owners, and they were spectacularly wealthy, built rows of terraced houses around the mills in order to house the workers. Of course the workers were not slaves, they were free to move on but to where? Another mill with a different owner? My guess is working conditions would be more or less the same as would be the wages. The step from being a 'worker' to 'middle class' could be made (as it can today) but it was, and is, a very big step.

It is always dangerous trying to compare conditions from then and now but there are some interesting parallels and contrasts. I lived in streets similar to this and by todays standards it
Terraced houses 2
was hard. No central heating, ice on the inside of the bedroom window on Winter mornings, food kept in the pantry - no refrigerators or freezers, outside lavatory. To those of us who lived then it was OK, it was normal. We accepted our place on the social ladder. Perhaps we shouldn't have but as I remember we were happy - certainly not rich or well off but happy.

I reckon there is another blog there "What
is happiness?" or "What makes a Human Being happy?". Go on, get us going what makes YOU happy?


We would welcome your comments or to hear what YOU think. Let us know by clicking on
If we publish anything you send, just let us know if we can use your name or if you would prefer to be anonymous.