Manuscript of the Month - February

The second in our ‘Manuscript of the Month’ series from the Archives is not one of our most visually exciting items. However, the story it contains is remarkable.

The book records one of the earliest accounts in English of capture by pirates to be sold into slavery. The text documents a journey by twelve of our former pupils in 1622, who were travelling from St Omers to the Jesuit seminary at Seville with the intention of training for the priesthood.

The twelve set out from St Omers in early August, and should have arrived at the Seville seminary after about three weeks’ travelling. However, the trip was plagued by disasters and misfortunes, including an attack (and capture) by a Dutch warship, an Atlantic storm, imprisonment by North African pirates, auction into slavery, assaults by their captors, many miles’ journey by foot, severe disease and starvation.

William Atkins, the author, attempts to make life among the pirates relatable to his audience through comparisons with the European religious context, in which he demonstrates his ire is reserved for radical Protestants:

‘As for theire religion, it is according to their Patriark Mahomets Alcoran, which they believe and followe as their true and infallible scripture, yet they are divided into two sects, if not more, of Turks and Mores. The Mores are farr more precise in their superstitions then the Turks are, and differ in their zeale, much after the manner of our Protestants and Puritans in England.’

[...] ‘Theire zeale in matters of religion is in one thing more moderate and civill than our Protestants, that they will not compell any man to their Mosque contrarie to his conscience’

Manuscript of the Month, February: ‘A Relation of the journey of 12 students from the English College at St Omers in Artois to the English College of Sevill in Spaine, AD 1622’ attributed to William Atkins (c1600-1681).