In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, North African corsairs seized captives at sea and forcibly employed them in urban centers such as Tripoli, Algiers, and Tunis, until they died or were redeemed. Contemporary Westerners—and later historians—saw this as a barbarian, backward practice that impeded modern free trade. However, North African privateers operated within a set of long-standing customs and systems long recognized, and practiced, by Western countries. As Western countries moved from constrained trade and monopolies to free trade over the long nineteenth century, they continued to license their own privateers and to buy the prize ships and cargoes taken by North African corsairs while simultaneously denouncing the barbaric depredations of the corsairs.
With this research grant, Christine will continue looking at corsairs’ practices and Western reactions to them. Further, she will begin looking more directly at privateering and piracy in the Mediterranean and Atlantic worlds in order to put North African corsairs and reactions to them in a broader historical context.