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Corsairs and Captives: Narratives from the Age of the Barbary Pirates (Hardback)

Maritime Military > Reference P&S History > Social History World History

By Adam Nichols
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 32 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781036106072
Published: 30th September 2024


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From the mid-sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries, Barbary corsairs from North Africa swarmed the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, seizing enormous amounts of booty and tens of thousands of captives, hauling them back to the slave markets in their home ports and auctioning them off to the highest bidder.

The conflict between these Barbary corsairs and Europe was military, but not just that; religious, but not just that; social and economic, but not just that either. Above all, it was a human conflict, with all the confusion, blurred lines, and inherent messiness of such things, and the narratives it generated were more complicated than simple swashbuckling pirate tales.

Corsairs & Captives presents a collection of these narratives, all based directly on primary-source documents, a number of which are translated into English for the first time. They include biographies of four renegade corsair captains (Europeans who converted to Islam and became corsairs), descriptions of sea battles by those who were there, accounts of ransomed captives, the report of a French Trinitarian friar who led a ransoming expedition to Algiers, even the transcript of a trial held by the Canary Islands chapter of the (in)famous Spanish Inquisition.

These narratives bring to life a world much rougher than our own but no less complicated, in which people with the ordinary human fears and aspirations we are familiar with today struggled to endure. It is not the world most people expect when they think of Barbary corsairs. It is more interesting than that.

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About Adam Nichols

Adam Nichols is an associate professor with the University of Maryland. For twenty years he taught for the university in England, Scotland, Iceland, Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Afghanistan and has also lived and worked in Norway, Australia, China, and Canada. He published five fantasy novels in the late 1990s and early 2000s and, more recently, has written six books about a series of Barbary corsair raids on Iceland (with Karl Smári Hreinsson) as well as multiple articles. He now lives in the US.

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