The stirring story of the seventeenth-century pirates of the Mediterranean-the forerunners of today's bandits of the seas-and how their conquests shaped the clash between Christianity and Islam.
It's easy to think of piracy as a romantic way of life long gone-if not for today's frightening headlines of robbery and kidnapping on the high seas. Pirates have existed since the invention of commerce itself, but they reached the zenith of their power during the 1600s, when the Mediterranean was the crossroads of the world and pirates were the scourge of Europe and the glory of Islam. They attacked ships, enslaved crews, plundered cargoes, enraged governments, and swayed empires, wreaking havoc from Gibraltar to the Holy Land and beyond.
Historian and author Adrian Tinniswood brings alive this dynamic chapter in history, where clashes between pirates of the East-Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli-and governments of the West-England, France, Spain, and Venice-grew increasingly intense and dangerous. In vivid detail, Tinniswood recounts the brutal struggles, glorious triumphs, and enduring personalities of the pirates of the Barbary Coast, and how their maneuverings between the Muslim empires and Christian Europe shed light on the religious and moral battles that still rage today.
As Tinniswood notes in Pirates of Barbary, "Pirates are history." In this fascinating and entertaining book, he reveals that the history of piracy is also the history that shaped our modern world.
Forget the pirates of the Caribbean: their Old World brethren were an altogether more colorful and fearsome lot, according to this swashbuckling study. Historian Tinniswood (The Verneys: A True Story of Love, War, and Madness in Seventeenth-Century England) revisits the kleptocratic heyday of the Barbary states Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, bits of Morocco which offered fortified harbors to pirates and in turn built their economies around the sale of stolen cargoes and captives. The buccaneers, who kidnapped whole villages as far north as Ireland and Iceland, were denounced as the scourge of Christendom. Yet most of the "Turkish" pirates Tinniswood highlights were British, Dutch, or Italian renegades who sometimes bought pardons and obtained naval commands from their native countries. The million Christians sold into bondage often converted to Islam and became pillars of the North African economy. The author makes this story an entertaining picaresque of crime, combat, and moral compromise; fierce sea battles and daring escapes alternate with corrupt hagglings as European governments vacillate between gunboat diplomacy and offering tribute for the release of their enslaved countrymen. Tinniswood gives us both a rollicking narrative and a rich brew of early modern maritime history. Illus., map.