Barbary Corsairs in North Africa: An Introduction

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There is a long and widespread history of pirates. The pirates were active in most of the part of the world. We find different clans of freebooters in distinct areas of the world. The pirate costumes of distinct sea rovers were different, but there was no difference in their intents. There were categories of the raiders in the medieval era and subsequent centuries. In the first centuries, we can find those freebooters, who were inclined toward piracy for the personal interests. Calico Jack, Blackbeard, Black Bart, Mary Read and Anne Bonny etc. were some of the famous names, which we can take as examples of such freebooters. The other category included those raiders, who were authorized to plunder the treasure ships of enemy nations. They would not loot the ships for their personal interests, and their motive was to provide benefit to their states. Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh etc. were the famous names of such raiders. These freebooters are often termed as privateers.

These pirates and privateers have been active in various parts of the world in distinct time spans. Mediterranean Sea, Caribbean Sea and waters of China etc. were the famous places, where piracy was flourished.  The western Mediterranean Sea was also being ravaged by the freebooters, where the raiders would loot the ships of North Africa. The freebooters who would plunder this area were known as the Barbary corsairs. The name had been given to them because of their activities at Barbary coasts. These Barbary corsairs were pirates and privateers, who operated from North African ports of Tunis, Tripoli and Algiers. Besides, they were also active in the ports of Morocco.

The Barbary corsairs not only raided the ships, but they also attacked the coastal towns and villages of Spain, Italy and Mediterranean islands. The inhabitants of Italian and Spanish coasts almost completely left their areas. According to Robert Davis, professor of history at Ohio State University, Barbary corsairs kidnapped 1 million to 1.25 million Europeans and sold them as slaves in North Africa and Ottoman Empire. The time span, when this unfortunate selling took place, was from 16th century to 19th century. Redbeard, his younger brother Ottoman Hayreddin, Targut Reis and Salih Reis etc. were some of the famous names of Barbary corsairs.

These Barbary corsairs would wear the pirate clothing, which was different from the popular Caribbean freebooters. The costumes of distinct designs are available today at a number of online and offline stores.

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