The Travels of Reverend Olafur Egilsson: The Story of the Barbary Corsair Raid on Iceland in 1627
By Olafur Egilsson (historical), Karl Smari Hreinsson and Adam Nichols (contemporary)
Published in 1631 / 2016
Thibault’s Score: 5/5
In 1627, Ottoman-funded Algerian pirates attacked Iceland. The exact motives behind the raid are unclear; however many historians speculate that the Ottomans were attempting to disrupt the European’s Atlantic trade in the New World.
During this raid, an Icelandic protestant priest - Olafur Egilsson - was enslaved. He would eventually escape, and would write an epic and tragic history of his enslavement and escape. Egilsson’s entire family - his wife, and three children, were all enslaved. Eventually, he would ransom and rescue his wife. However, his children were sold off and never seen again.
This book is a combination of a primary source - the journal of Olafur Egilsson - and modern historical commentary spliced in, to give readers additional context. It also includes several other primary sources; most notably several letters and accounts written by other slaves.
Thinking about Ottoman pirates in Iceland is mind boggling. It shatters many geographical pre-conceptions that uninformed readers might have about the early modern era. The cross cultural aspects of this book are very interesting.
This book is well written. It isn’t overly academic. It isn’t trying to prove a point; instead it is trying to convey a story. If you want to pick up a highly readable story about one of the most bizarre and tragic episodes of the early modern era, then I highly recommend it.
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