Adrian Tinniswood’s Pirates of Barbary

Adrian Tinniswood writes in Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the Seventeenth-Century Mediterranean:

I found that robbery on the high seas was far from being the private enterprise I’d imagined it to be: behind it lay a sophisticated system of socialized crime, state-sanctioned and state-regulated, an early and efficient example of public-private partnership.  And I came to understand the enormous economic importance of the Mediterranean trade in slaves, a trade which took the liberty of around one million Europeans and at least as many North Africans in the course of the seventeenth century.

Jay Freeman reviews Pirates of Barbary in Booklist:

For those who think of pirates as one-eyed rogues proclaiming “shiver me timbers” while flying the Jolly Roger, this interesting and exciting work will be full of surprises. Tinniswood has concentrated this account on the seventeenth century, when pirates based on the shores of North Africa consistently plundered European ships and seized captives, either enslaving or holding them for ransom. But these pirates were far from the freewheeling mold of Long John Silver or Jack Sparrow. They operated with the full support of the so-called Barbary States of North Africa—Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers. Those states owed nominal allegiance to the Sultan in Istanbul, and the government there saw piracy as a useful tool against the Christian West. Surprisingly, some of the most prominent pirates were English-born sailors who “turned Turk” and converted to Islam. Tinniswood shows a certain admiration for the dash and raw courage of these men, but he doesn’t minimize their ruthlessness or the suffering of their victims.

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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