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Pirates Of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the 17th-Century Mediterranean

3.52  ·  Rating Details  ·  300 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Pirates of Barbary is an extraordinary record of the European renegades and Islamic sea-rovers who terrorised the Mediterranean and beyond throughout the seventeenth century. From the coast of Southern Europe to Morocco and the Ottoman states of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, Christian and Muslim seafarers met in bustling ports to swap religions, to battle and to trade goods ...more
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published March 18th 2010 by Jonathan Cape
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Jason Koivu
Jul 10, 2013 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it

Okay, so this may not be as wild and fantastical as The Pirates of the Caribbean, but Adrian Tinniswood did a great job bringing this version of swashbuckling history to life.

There are some salacious tales of daring, but Pirates of Barbary goes beyond the expected stereotypes and gives the real story, much of it unpleasant. But it's also more complex than it seems. These pirates were doing more than just plundering the Mediterranean from their North African ports. They we
May 29, 2016 Nick rated it liked it
Sorry, no Johnny Depp, no Keira Knightly (although there are some cameos by different and longer-lasting types of stars--Dryden, the Admiralty functionary Samuel Pepys and both John and John Quincy Adams in their diplomatic days). The subject of "Pirates of Barbary" is the century-long effort of the British government, Stuarts and Cromwells, to secure a safe trading route for the country's merchant ships to and from Mediterranean ports, with a coda on the American war of the early nineteenth cen ...more

3 Stars

The US and most other editions of this book are subtitled ‘Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the 17th-Century Mediterranean’ and that probably gives a more accurate impression of the contents because, for a book titled ‘Pirates of Barbary‘, I really didn’t think there was much of a focus on the actual pirates.

It started off well in the foreword, emphasising the disparity in the way that history and popular culture have portrayed European/American and African pirates. ‘The white West re
Jan 19, 2015 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, long-18thc, 2015
Strictly speaking, the pirates of the Barbary Coast weren't pirates at all but corsairs or privateers. That is, they weren't operating outside of all law; they were operating under licence from the city-states of North Africa--Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, in particular--and with financial investment from merchants and business interests, to whom they owed a portion of their takings. European states had long done the same thing, of course, but they didn't much like being on the receiving end. The ...more
Zach Long
Jan 25, 2016 Zach Long rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to be that guy spouting "did you know.. HEY... HEY DID YOU KNOW this about pirates!?" for the next few weeks. It's easily one of my favorite non-fiction books shortly after putting it down.

Did you know England created a catastrophic colony off the African northern: Tangier? It went like so bad. The king spent his own money to fortify the bay, and Britain ended up destroying the whole city to keep it off the hands of the Moors, who were (possibly) allowing the city to be built up as a j
Sheenagh Pugh
Apr 25, 2010 Sheenagh Pugh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction

I thought I had enough pirate books, till I saw this one specifically dealing with the Barbary pirates of Algiers, Tripoli etc. It's well researched and scholarly but also written in a delightfully lively style - see this sardonic little piece on everyone's dream job - not...:

"The governorship of Tangier was not a passport to success. The Earl of Peterborough was recalled to England after 11 months, amidst allegations of corruption and incompetence. His successor, the Earl of Teviot, managed a
During history class in school, I first heard of the Barbary Coast and the exploits of a US Navy officer named Stephen Decatur. I always wondered about the Barbary pirates and Adrian Tinniswood has answered my questions in this history. He concentrates on the seventeenth century but covers the history of Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers as centers of piracy from the sixteenth through the early nineteenth century, using anecdotes, personal narratives and other sources to support a narrative that sweeps ...more
Dec 12, 2014 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a thoroughly academic work -- which at times is entertaining. If you are looking for meticulous research and fine writing, then you will enjoy this book. As a lover of history, I learned a great deal, particularly about the slave trade in the 17th and 18th century of white Europeans. No, not white Europeans trading slaves; white Europeans being kidnapped (sometimes by the village-full) and sold. This is a tragic piece of history that you'll never learn about in school, but is no less tra ...more
Dec 17, 2014 Jen rated it liked it
Things I knew about pirates before I read this book: Thomas Jefferson sent sailors to beat them up--thus "from the shores of Tripoli.

Things I knew after reading this book: A lot more.

It's weird to think of an entire economy based on taking over ships and stealing all their stuff. However, that's effectively how the pirate states in north Africa paid their bills.

This book goes through not only the beginning of piracy (the British called them "privateers" when they were stealing from Spain), but
May 16, 2014 Trav rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is as much a study of international relations as a story of 17th Century piracy. Although Tinniswood provides a surprisingly detailed narrative on some individual corsairs, politicians, captives and military men, it is his examination of the relationship between the corsairs, the Barbary states, and the European powers Tinniswood's book finds its modern relevance. The difficult compromise states must make between principles and pragmatism is clearly evident in Tinniswood's description of ho ...more
Sep 18, 2014 Luiz rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Was expecting a little more info on the pirates themselves however as a study of why piracy was taking place it was really interesting. Dealt more with the economics of trade between Europe and the middle east and the internal political maneuvering of the pirate’s states, their loose ties with the ottoman empire, treaties with Europeans, and the public opinion of England. Some cool firsthand accounts of battles, and escapes and such but on a whole it read like a text book and I didn't like how a ...more
Randal Schmidt
Jun 25, 2015 Randal Schmidt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Should have been titled "England vs. Barbary" instead, or even "1600s English Diplomacy on the African Coast," though I'm guessing that would have sold fewer copies. Still, overall, it was a fascinating and highly informative book about an often overlooked period in history. Tinniswood, the author, clearly has an overarching thesis - that the Barbary pirates are not regarded as roguish antiheroes like the Caribbean pirates, because Barbary is a land of nonwhite Muslims and therefore, has no Roma ...more
Cian H.
Jan 22, 2016 Cian H. rated it it was ok
Pirates of Barbary by Adrian Tinniswood Review

The unhappy truth about this book is that it misrepresents its own discussion matter by focusing on something else entirely. A more adept name would have been English Pirates of Barbary in relation to the Crown and its subjects. The book is not a complete history or even an appropriate analysis of the subject of the Pirates of Barbary; their breadth, range and nature beyond that of Anglo-centric considerations and when the book attempts to be so it i
Apr 19, 2014 Ray rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

The "Pirates of Barbary" may not be the stirring tale promised by the book jacket, but still is an interesting enough history of piracy in the Mediterranean in the 17th and 18th Centuries. There were alternating periods of piracy and peace among the Nations of the Mediterranean during these times, with treaties between the North African Barbary States and the European nautical powers being made and broken. Pirate attacks were actually initiated by both sides, and the author identifies and descri
Aug 09, 2011 Precious rated it really liked it
The title of this engrossing and well researched history of 17th century piracy is a little misleading due to the nature of piracy during this period. While the author does focus most of his research on the pirate activities of corsairs off the coast of North Africa, this work is really about the economic and military impact of piracy (or privateering depending on whose ships where attacked and who did the attacking). The economic impact of piracy was felt throughout Continental Europe and the B ...more
Gerald Sinstadt
Sep 28, 2010 Gerald Sinstadt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The 17th Century neatly bookends the story of piracy in the Mediterranean. For a few decades the protagonists struggle on but in reality by the end of Adrian Tinniswood's rumbustious tale, these pirates - both the semi-legal, government-authorised corsairs and the defiantly independent free lancers - have lost their means of existence. But what an existence it was.

The Barbary coast ports of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli attracted greedy adventurers and devout defenders of one faith or another. They
Omar Ali
Dec 19, 2013 Omar Ali rated it really liked it
This book is NOT a systematic history of the Barbary pirates. The chronology is sometimes confusing and there is little attempt to present facts and figures systematically, nor is there much in the way of social or economic analysis.But its a very readable collection of highlights and anecdotes. The focus is on Britain, so don't expect much about the French, Italian or Spanish sides of this saga (all of whom had more experience with Barbary pirates than Britain did, but then, this is a British b ...more
Dec 21, 2015 charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastically written historical record of a world that truly existed. Author Adrian Tinniswood is a consultant to Britain's National Trust; a historian of fame on either side of the 'Pond'. An author of over a dozen books he's also a lecturer, a media broadcaster, and certainly has many notes that back up his amazing writing. I've the Riverhead Books edition, ISBN 978-1-59448-774-3.
Feb 13, 2012 Pat rated it liked it
Before I read about this book, I knew almost nothing of the pirates of the Barbary Coast who were the scourge of the Mediterranean in the 1700s, other than that the Marine Hymn refers to shores of Tripoli sand has some relationship to cleaning up the Barbary coast. The author of this book covers the pirates in admirable detail and it becomes clear that these people were as often European as Arabs or other denizens of the Ottoman Empire, though the latter were often the sponsors of the attacks. I ...more
Aug 20, 2013 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I'm fairly familiar with the.history of Carribian piracy, I knew practically nothing about the institutionalized piracy of the Barbary Coast. A well-researched popular history, this book seems to be a good overview of the subject. I had no idea how vital the Corsairs were to the economies of the various Islamic territories, and the extent to which they were supoorted by the local rulers.

This work also has some very thought-provoking things to say about how these states and corsairs and th
Joshua Buermann
Nov 12, 2015 Joshua Buermann rated it liked it
Rather than a history of the Barbary pirates it is a history of English relations with the Barbary states, but it's quite good at being a history of what it's really a history of, title aside.
May 10, 2015 Joe added it
Pirates are way more than a band of a few renegades that stole a ship and a bottle of rum. It was big business and, very profitable. (Most of them still got their eye poked out.)
Mar 19, 2016 Christine rated it liked it
There was lots to like about this book---interesting people, well-written History, and stories you don't often hear told.

But, my problem with this book was the lack of a thread running through it. Other than it being about piracy, each chapter was really it's own short story. That made for some really good chapters and some ok chapters. Even with the good chapters, however, I found little driving me forward to finish the story. Really good non-fiction has a constant thread that gets picked up t
Oct 13, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author does a great job bringing to light this fascinating 350 year chapter in history.
Bookworm Amir
Jul 21, 2011 Bookworm Amir rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A great read!

It might be hard to believe, but this book and piracy, connects a lot of the missing dots of international relations between the Islamic and Christian Worlds.

Many of today's events stem from this conflict.

Many conceptions of pirates today are 'fake' - in a sense they are not Ho HO Ho people who look 100% like Jack Sparrow. Most of them are Muslims.

This being a narrative of a historical book, which makes reading engaging and easy, I would say it is a recommended reading for many pe
Jul 23, 2016 Myriam rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It was frustratingly difficult to find a book about corsairs, let alone one with a critical analysis of colonialism and racism. I only wish there had been more of that analysis well as more tales of North African sailors rather than mainly western converts.
Jan 23, 2015 Rick rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Pirates and slavery. I wondered why so many traders dared to sail through the Mediterranean in those days.
Sep 12, 2013 Rob rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book turnt out to be more of a litany of individual experiences rather than an overview of Mediterranean piracy. I would have been fine with many or even a majority of first-hand accounts, but instead of any attempt at a synthesis of experience or a helpful overview of the meaning of all of this, it instead felt like an unending catalogue of piratical doings. Interesting enough, but once I'd had my fill, and seeing none of the higher order analysis that I sought, I quit reading the book abo ...more
Dec 09, 2013 Timothy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fun and fast-paced work of popular history. The author uses his sources expertly, but his focus is specifically on Barbary piracy from an English perspective. Other major players, such as the Spanish or Venetians, don't make their voices heard for the most part. He does glean some useful information from whatever Arabic and Turkish sources were available to him in translation.

There were absolutely some flaws with this book, but I could forgive them because it was such a pleasure to re
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Architectural historian, Adrian Tinniswood, has worked as an author, broadcaster, lecturer and educational consultant for nearly 30 years in both Britain and the United States. He is the author of many books published by Mitchell Beazley.
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“The dey of Algiers took the occasion of the War of 1812 to renege on his treaty obligations with the United States;” 0 likes
“Wine was a valued commodity in Tripoli, in spite of repeated attempts by Istanbul to outlaw the consumption of alcohol throughout the Ottoman Empire.” 0 likes
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