Barbary Coast

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A 17th-century map by the Dutch cartographer Jan Janssonius showing the Barbary Coast, here "Barbaria"

The terms Barbary Coast, Barbary, Berbery or Berber Coast were used in English-language sources (similarly to equivalent terms in other languages) from the 16th century to the early 19th to refer to the coastal regions of North Africa or Maghreb, specifically the Ottoman borderlands consisting of the regencies in Tripoli, Algiers and Tunis as well as, sometimes, Morocco.[1][2] The term was coined in reference to the Berbers.[citation needed]


Ex-voto of a naval battle between a Turkish ship from Algiers (front) and a ship of the Order of Malta under Langon, 1719

Barbary was not always a unified political entity. From the 16th century onwards, it was divided into the political entities of the Regency of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripolitania (Tripoli). Major rulers and petty monarchs during the times of the Barbary States' plundering parties included the Pasha or Dey of Algiers, the Bey of Tunis and the Bey of Tripoli.[3]

In 1625, Algiers' pirate fleet (by far the largest) numbered 100 ships of various sizes employing 8,000 to 10,000 men. The corsair industry accounted for 25 percent of the workforce of the city, not counting other activities related directly to the port. The fleet averaged 25 ships in the 1680s, but these were larger vessels than had been used the 1620s, thus the fleet still employed some 7,000 men. In addition 2,500 men manned the pirate fleet of Tripoli, 3,000 in Tunis, and several thousand more in all the various minor pirate bases such as Bona, Susa, Bizerta, and Sale. The corsairs were not solely natives of their cities; while many were Arabs and Berbers, there were also Turks, Greeks, Albanians, Syrians, and renegade Italians (especially Corsicans) among their number.[4]

Purchase of Christian captives in the Barbary States

The first military land action overseas by the United States was executed by the US Marines and the US Navy at the Battle of Derna, Tripoli, a coastal town now in eastern Libya, in April 1805. It formed part of an effort to destroy all Barbary pirates, to reclaim American slaves in captivity and end piracy acts between the warring tribes on the part of the Barbary states, which were themselves member states of the Ottoman Empire. The opening line of the Marines' Hymn refers to this action: "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli..." It was the first time that the US Marine Corps took part in offensive actions outside the United States.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ben Rejeb, Lotfi (2012). "'The general belief of the world': Barbary as genre and discourse in Mediterranean history". European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire. 19 (1): 15. doi:10.1080/13507486.2012.643607. S2CID 159990075.
  2. ^ Hinz, Almut (2006). "Die "Seeräuberei der Barbareskenstaaten" im Lichte des europäischen und islamischen Völkerrechts". Verfassung und Recht in Übersee / Law and Politics in Africa, Asia and Latin America. 39 (1): 46–65. JSTOR 43239304.
  3. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Barbary Pirates" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 383–384.
  4. ^ Gregory Hanlon. "The Twilight Of A Military Tradition: Italian Aristocrats And European Conflicts, 1560-1800." Routledge: 1997. Pages 27-28.


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