- On June 20th, 1631, Dutch made ships crewed by around 200 pirates approached the shore of a quiet coastal town under the cover of darkness.
Silently, they formed a line and prepared to strike.
They raided the homes abducting over 100 villagers.
Once secured back on the ship, the captives would be held for ransom or sold into slavery in Algeria?
[record scratches] Algeria?
The pirates responsible for raiding that Irish town of Baltimore were at the height of their powers when medieval knights were still a regular sighting and didn't succumb to their enemies until after the presidency of Thomas Jefferson.
So who were these Sea Raiders?
I'm Joel Cook, and this is Rogue History.
[adventurous music] In 1796, the United States government agreed to pay a $642,500 lump sum, over $14 million in today's money, plus annual tributes of naval supplies and gifts so that American citizens weren't sold off into slavery.
Those most likely to be captured and sold were primarily American sailors onboard merchant vessels and even the occasional US Navy vessel who were unfortunate enough to have a run in with a group of North African based sailors known collectively as the Barbary Pirates.
The Barbary pirates begin their pirating ventures from North African coastal countries we now know as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, collectively called the Maghreb or the West by native people, and the Barbary Coast by Europeans.
The word Barbary is related to barbarians, a term the ancient Greeks use dismissively for any non-Greek speaking invader.
And Berbers, a similarly used European label for an ethnic group indigenous to the Maghreb region called the Amazigh or Free People.
Much of the English speaking world still refers to indigenous North Africans as Berbers, a term many Amazighan consider a slur.
The cruises of Barbary pirate vessels were primarily made up of European renegades, Muslims from Ottoman lands in Western Asia and to a much lesser degree, the Amazigh.
They sailed a huge expanse of water in search of profit raiding throughout the Mediterranean, south along the Atlantic coastline of Africa and as far north as Iceland.
Perhaps the most famous of all the Barbary pirates was Hayreddin Hizir Reis, a powerful figure you might know better by the name Hayreddin Barbarrosa.
He and his brother Oruc Reis worked together to capture Algiers from Spain in 1516 after which Oruc declared himself Sultan.
Following Oruc's death in 1518, Hayreddin Dean became Sultan of Algiers as well as the ally of another famous Barbary Pirate Sayyida al-Hurra.
Be sure to check out our women in piracy episode to hear her story.
As the notoriety and plunder of pirates like Barbarrosa grew the Ottoman Caliphate Constantinople Salim I recognized their talents could be exploited to bring the North African states under Ottoman rule.
The goal of these newly minted privateers was not only to attain gold or ships but to take as many captives as possible.
The hostages were valuable in two ways.
One, as pieces to be ransomed for vast sums of money.
And two, as fodder for the robust Arab slave trade.
One famous captive of the Barbary Pirates was a soldier fighting against the Turks for his native Spain.
He had lost the use of his left arm in the 1571 Battle of Lepanto, and as he was making his way home was captured by Barbara Pirates and enslaved in Algiers.
Because his family could not afford his ransom, he was enslaved for five years despite making many attempts to escape.
This man was actually Miguel de Cervantes, the author who would eventually write the groundbreaking novel Don Quijote published in two parts in 1605 and 1615.
Don Quijote was innovative because it incorporated marginal and culturally ambiguous groups such as Marisco's former Muslims who converted to Christianity and Picaro's or rogues.
Cervantes had personal relationships with many of these groups of people during his time in Algiers and reflected them in his work.
By the time the 18th century rolled around the Barbary pirates had expanded their sights.
It wouldn't be long before the merchant ships of an ambitious new nation became valuable targets for them.
When the American colonists declared their independence from England in 1776, the British not only stopped taxing their tea but rescinded the use of the Royal Navy for protection.
In a petty act of colonial retribution, the British diplomats also spread word that us merchant vessels in the Atlantic and Mediterranean were now vulnerable to attack.
The Americans spilled some tea and the British spilled some right back.
You can probably guess what followed.
American ships such as the Betsy, the Maria, and the Dolphin were immediately attacked by the Barbary pirates.
The US paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, a huge portion of their federal budget, as a ransom for sailors captured in the 1780s and 1790s.
Some captives were returned, some died in captivity, and some were sold into slavery.
In some cases, the pirates demanded the ransom be paid in warships.
At one point, humiliating the Americans by forcing them to build a copper clad 40 gun vessel that would be used to capture Americans in exchange for the American hostages they already held.
The American government viewed the capture and enslavement of its primarily white sailors as a massive issue.
But it also raised a question, why was the enslavement of white people by the Barbary pirates considered inherently evil?
While the enslavement of those of African descent by the United States still continued at prodigious rates.
Even an American captive of of the Barbary pirates, William Ray, devoted several pages of his work, 'Horrors of Slavery', to criticizing the hypocrisy of the United States in oppressing marginalized people while denouncing another oppressor.
By 1801, the US had had enough of the Barbary pirates and declared war on them beginning the end of their reign.
In 1805, the marines stormed the Barbary Pirate harbor fortress stronghold in Tripoli an act famously mentioned in the opening line of the Marine Corp Hymn, 'from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli'.
This was the US' first victory on foreign soil and helped the fledgling country continue to solidify its independence.
Less than a year later, the Barbary Pirates signed a treaty recognizing the United States right to unmolested trade in the Mediterranean.
But during the war of 1812, the Barbary pirates recognized that the Americans were vulnerable, probably thanks to a little more Lipton from the British, and returned to capturing American vessels.
This resulted in the second Barbary War which started in 1815.
This time, the Americans had a much stronger navy because of their naval conflict with the British during the war of 1812.
With an overwhelming show of force, President James Madison secured unconditional surrender.
All American captives were released without any ransoms being paid and the pirates were forced to sign treaties agreeing to leave the Americans alone, for real this time.
After this defeat, the Barbary pirates remained a regional power for a few more years until the French conquered Algeria 1830 ending their rain.
The so-called Barbary pirates will go down in history as some of the most notorious pirates to ever sail the sea.
But how justified that notoriety is remains a hotly debated topic to this day.
Many modern critics of the Barbary pirates try to frame them as religious zealots, rating European towns specifically to target white Christians in an act of racial and holy warfare.
But the historical evidence doesn't support this.
While Europe and majority Muslim powers like the Ottoman Empire did indeed have their religious conflicts, the Barbary pirates, like most outlaws, operated purely on the social margins that best suited their financial ones.
The United States also made clear in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli that the opposing sides were not engaged in a Holy War between Christians and Muslims but rather asserted that the US was a secular state noting that 'no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries'.
In reality, the Barbary pirates were people as complex and varied as the Golden Age pirates.
So just like the Blackbeards, Henry Morgans, and Stede Bonnets of the world, try to remember the Barbary pirates for what they really were.
Thieving, murderous sea bandits.
See you soon.
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