Hark Olufs and the Barbary States  

by Martin Rheinheimer               

Hark Olufs’s place of origin

The Barbary States (with a selected bibliography)

Hark Olufs’s curriculum vitae

Source texts






































































Turkish tile from Constantine





































Hark Olufs’ gravestone at Amrum


Hark Olufs’s place of origin


Amrum is one of the Northfrisian islands, situated in the wadden sea. In the 18. century it was a part of the kingdom of Denmark (today it is belonging to Germany).


The island was very poor, and most of the about 600 inhabitants lived from seafaring, often employed by the Dutch. One of them was Oluf Jensen, Hark Olufs’s father. In the beginnings of the 18. century he sailed as a captain from Trondhjem in Norway, later from the Netherlands, and finally he lived as a shipowner on Amrum.


His son was to become a sailor and a captain, too.



The Barbary States


In the 18. century Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripolis were known as the “Barbary States”. These Moslem states considered themselves in war with the Christian world. So they captured Christian ships and sold the sailors as slaves. In fact they were economically depend on this piracy.


The families of the captured sailors had to collect money for the ransom. From the 17. century insurances were established (in Denmark 1716), but they never had enough money. Because the crews were very multinational, often the insurance did not feel responsible - with the result, that many slaves were not ransomed.


Finally several states made contracts with the Barbary States. So they paid an amount of money directly to them, for their ships should no more be captured. Denmark made a first contract with Algiers in 1746.



* A selected bibliography of the Barbary States



Hark Olufs’s curriculum vitae


1708 july 17/19 born in Süddorf on the island of Amrum, father: Oluf Jensen

1708 aug. 16 death of his mother Marret Harken (born 1680)

1713 nov. 26 remarriage of the father with Marret Jürgens (born 1693, dead 1779)

1715 aug. 12 birth of the stepsister Marret (dead 1786)

1717 nov. 18 death of the elder brother Peter (born 1705)

1721 sailor

1724 mar. 10 (?) on the way from Nantes to Hamburg captured by the Algerians at the Scilly islands, later on sold at Algiers as a slave, and finally bought by the bey of Constantine


Did he become a Moslem?


1724-1727/28 lackey of the bey of Con­stan­tine

1727/28-1735 gasnadal (treasurer) of the bey

1732 june/july visit of a Saxonian expedition under the direction of dr. J. Hebenstreit

between 1728 and 1732 appointed commander of the bey’s bodyguard

1732-1735 agha ed-deira (commander-in-chief of the cavalry)

1732 sep. participation in the siege of Oran (?)

1732/33 pilgrimage to Mecca

1734 journey to Marrakech

1734 attempt for ransom by Oluf Jensen

1735 sep. 04 battle of Smendja and later on conquest of Tunis

1735 oct. 31 release and return via Algiers, Mar­seille, Lyon, Paris and Hamburg

1736 apr. 25 arrival at Amrum


Hark Olufs’s house at Süddorf (left side)


1737 summer marriage with Antje Lorent­zen (dead1798)

1737 sep. 20 birth of the daughter Crassen (dead 1762)

1739 feb. 11 birth of the son Lorenz (dead 1811)

1741 oct. 13/14 birth of the daughter Marret (dead 1808)

1742 may 25/26 (?) reception by king Chri­stian VI. at Tønder

1744 mar. 24/26 birth of the daughter Ehlen (dead 1796)

1747 publication of his autobiography in danish

1748 june 11 birth of the daughter Marret (dead 1828)

1750 may 19 death of the father Oluf Jensen

1751 german translation of the autobiography

1754 oct. 13 death at Süd­dorf on the island of Amrum

1761 confirmation of the contents of the autobiography by Hark Nickelsen


Source texts


* Hark Olufs’s  autobiography in danish, 1747


* Hark Olufs’s  autobiography in german, 1751


* The official text of the treaty between Denmark and Algiers, 1746 (in danish)


You will find more informations in:

Martin Rheinheimer, Der fremde Sohn. Hark Olufs’ Wiederkehr aus der Sklaverei. Neumünster 2001.



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© 2001 Martin Rheinheimer