Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the 17th Century Mediterranean
Everyone knows about the pirates of the Caribbean, the Morgans and the Kidds. And – dare I say it – the Johnny Depps? The Corsairs of the Barbary Coast are much less well known. Yet they deserve to be, for a high proportion were European renegades. John Ward, one of the most notorious, began life as a Kentish fisherman; another, Sir Francis Verney, was an English gentleman. Both ended by converting to Islam. Yet another, of equal notoriety with Ward, was Simon Danseker, the Dutchman.
Strictly speaking, these men were not pirates at all. They were privateers operating under licence. State-sponsored pirates, if you like. There is an obvious comparison with modern state-sponsored terrorism, especially when we learn that corsairs were sometimes spoken of as pursuing a sea jihad. In the name of Islam, they spread terror not only in the Mediterranean, but along the coasts of Western Europe, even as far north as Iceland, selling their captives in the slave markets of North Africa. Theirs was a brutal world, but then so was the world of the Caribbean pirates. For anyone interested in the subject, engagingly written and a mine of information.