The Barbary Corsairs
The Barbary Corsairs, sometimes called Corsairs or Barbary Pirates, were Muslim pirates and privateers who operated from North Africa from the time of the Crusades (11th century) until the early 19th century. Based in North African ports such as Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, Salé, and other ports in Morocco, they sailed mainly along the stretch of northern Africa known as the Barbary Coast. But their predation extended throughout the Mediterranean, south along West Africa’s Atlantic seaboard, and into the North Atlantic as far north as Iceland, and they primarily commandeered western European ships in the western Mediterranean Sea. In addition, they engaged in Razzias, raids on European coastal towns to capture Christian slaves to sell at slave markets in places such as Algeria and Morocco.
These Pirates destroyed thousands of French, Spanish, Italian and British ships, and long stretches of coast in Spain and Italy were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants, discouraging settlement until the 19th century. From the 16th to 19th century, pirates captured an estimated 800,000 to 1.25 million Europeans as slaves, mainly from seaside villages in Italy, Spain, and Portugal, but also from France, Britain, the Netherlands, Ireland and as far away as Iceland and North America.