Encountering Islam

For three centuries after 1500, Britain was brought face to face with Islam through the activities of the Barbary corsairs. Muslim ships based in North African ports terrorized European shipping, enslaving hundreds of thousands of Christians. Encountering Islam is the fascinating story of one Englishman’s experience of life within a Muslim society, as both Christian slave and Muslim soldier. 

£48.00

5 in stock

ISBN 9780955889493 Categories: , Tag:

For three centuries after 1500, Britain was brought face to face with Islam through the activities of the Barbary corsairs. Muslim ships based in North African ports terrorized European shipping, enslaving hundreds of thousands of Christians. Encountering Islam is the fascinating story of one Englishman’s experience of life within a Muslim society, as both Christian slave and Muslim soldier. 

Born in Exeter around 1662, Joseph Pitts was captured by Algerian pirates on his first voyage in 1678. Sold as a slave in Algiers, he underwent forced conversion to Islam. Sold again, he accompanied his kindly third master on pilgrimage to Mecca, so becoming the first Englishman known to have visited the Muslim holy places. Granted his freedom, he became a soldier, before venturing on a daring escape. Crossing much of Italy and Germany on foot, he finally reached Exeter seventeen years after he had left. 

Pitts’s book, first published in 1704, is a unique combination of captivity narrative, travel account and description of Islam. It describes his life in Algiers, his conversion, his pilgrimage to Mecca (the first such detailed description in English), Muslim ritual and practice, and his escape. A Christian for most of his life, Pitts also had the advantage of living as a Muslim within a Muslim society. Encountering Islam contains a faithful rendering of the definitive 1731 edition of Pitts’s book. The introduction tells what is known of Pitts’s life, and places his work against its historical background of captivity narratives and Anglo-Muslim relations of the period.

 

Author

  • Paul Auchterlonie read Arabic at Oxford in the late 1960s before training as a librarian at the University of London. He then worked for forty years as a librarian, specialising in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, first at the School of Oriental and African Studies, then at the University of Lancaster, and from 1981 to 2011 was librarian in charge of the Middle East collections at the University of Exeter. He is the author and editor of numerous works on Middle Eastern bibliography and library science, and has published articles on historical and cultural relations between Britain and the Middle East, including the first substantial study of Joseph Pitts, the first Englishman known to have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. He served for many years as Chair of the Middle East Libraries Committee (MELCOM-UK), and was founding Secretary of MELCOM International.