PDA

View Full Version : Pirates of Barbary Corsairs, Cnquest and Captivity in the 17th Century Mediterranean



Cmmdre
11-10-2013, 10:16
7487
Book Title:
Pirates of Barbary Corsairs, Conquest and Captivity in the 17th Century Mediterranean Author:
Adrian Tinniswood ISBN:
978-1-59448-774-3 Category:
History Format:
Hardback Summary:
This book is an interesting intersection of commerce, religion, politics and courage in the 17th century. During a period of colliding empires bent on religious conquest throughout the Mediterranean the stage was being set for some of the same issues we grapple with today. Plenty of research went into the writing of this book but as you read you discover some of the facts are from single person accounts with no other evidence to support the assertions. That aside I enjoyed the book and recommend this for those interested in history, piracy and sailing throughout the Mediterranean during this period.

7eat51
11-10-2013, 14:09
Paul pointed me to this book earlier this year. It definitely can be provocative at times.

David Manley
11-10-2013, 14:58
Paul pointed me to this book earlier this year. It definitely can be provocative at times.

How so?

7eat51
11-10-2013, 18:13
How so?

To clarify, by provocative, I mean to stir one's thinking, to stimulate or elicit a response.

Below is an excerpt from the Preface. It challenged me on how I think about current contemporary examples of piracy off the east African coast. By challenge, I don't mean that I changed my way of thinking, or to automatically think that it was wrong, but it made me pause and to question a given perspective not held by me at the time of the reading. It required a response on my part as a reader. This is unlike a passage about how far a given cannon-type can fire. Such things can be debated, but they don't elicit the same type of response, in my opinion. I hope this makes sense.

In comparing the, aforementioned, pirates to the romantic ideas drawing from the Caribbean pirates, the author writes:

The pirates of Africa, past and present, have not. The white West regards them as the irreconcilable Other - not rebels against authority but plain criminals, not brave Robin Hoods (that would make us the Sheriff of Nottingham), but cowardly thieves. When the old pirates of Barbary described themselves as mujahideen on a sea-jihad against encroaching Christendom, Christendom portrayed them as demons bent on world domination; when modern-day Somali pirate chiefs say that the real sea-bandits are those who steal their fish stocks and pollute their coastal waters, we patronize them and then send a gunboat. An underlying racism and a more overt anti-Islamism make it hard to imagine Captain Blood or Jack Sparrow as North African Muslims.

David Manley
11-11-2013, 15:24
I see what you mean. We in the West do have a rather uncomfortably way way of romaniticising criminals, especially those who on the high seas committed the most heinous forms of barbarism

csadn
11-11-2013, 16:25
I was OK until the author chose to use "we" -- um, last I checked, I wasn't consulted on the east-African-piracy problem.

Coog
11-11-2013, 18:22
I doubt I'll be getting the book. The pirates of the past and present are what they are, no matter were they come from, and there was/is only one way to handle them.

7eat51
11-11-2013, 18:53
I see what you mean. We in the West do have a rather uncomfortably way way of romaniticising criminals, especially those who on the high seas committed the most heinous forms of barbarism

Not only do we romanticize criminals, but we are selective of which criminals we romanticize.


I was OK until the author chose to use "we" -- um, last I checked, I wasn't consulted on the east-African-piracy problem.

This is another example of being provocative. There are passages in this book which call for a response, even if the responses are rejection. In some ways, this is a strength of the book; it can force a reader to move from passively reading the book to engaging it.


I doubt I'll be getting the book. The pirates of the past and present are what they are, no matter were they come from, and there was/is only one way to handle them.

I think your point, Bobby, highlights an important differentiation - pirates vs. lawbreakers. Some lawbreaking is worthy of commendation because the laws being broken are unjust, laws that diminish or inhibit human flourishing. Such laws need to be overthrown, however, not in a manner that becomes unjust itself. Piracy, in my opinion, does not fall into that category. Piracy, as I understand it, does not set individuals free, does not promote justice in any universal sense, but enslaves. The irony is that it enslaves the captors as well, by making them less human. As you say, such piracy needs to be eradicated.

csadn
11-12-2013, 16:43
Piracy, as I understand it, does not set individuals free, does not promote justice in any universal sense, but enslaves.

It depends on who's being talked about. Western pirates usually became such due to the rigidly-hierarchical structure of society as a whole, and naval society in particular -- as David Weber is so fond of bludgeoning his readers over the head with: The order is "God; the First Sea Lord; the Admiralty; the Captain; the Officers; the Midshipmen; the Sailors"; and *there is no recourse to higher authority*, so if a middie took a dislike to one, there was *nothing* one could do about it (there is an infamous quote from a RN officer: "By the god of war, I'll learn you to bow to a midshipman's coat if it's only hung on a nail to dry!").

The pirates, then, attempted to set up a system by which no one man held absolute authority -- the "captain", so-called, was only in charge from the moment a sail was sighted until it had disappeared, or was captured (it would be more accurate to call him "war master"); during "normal" sailing, the quartermaster was in charge; and "law enforcement" was handled by a "bosun" (hmm, three leadership groups, with checks and balances -- where have we seen *that* elsewhere? >:) ). Admittedly, in practice, a dominant personality might be able to take total control (x-ref Blackbeard), but this wasn't always the case.

Moreover, this is where "the signing of the articles" comes into play -- by signing, a sailor could not say he was forced into service; he chose his path. Granted, there were exceptions -- someone with a really useful skill might be kept captive and made to serve the pirates, but would not be considered part of the crew (and in some cases, if the pirates were captured, they would tell the authorities "this person was forced to serve"; this led to tales of very young men who might actually have a future being made to go through a farce of being "forced", so if the pirates were later taken, it wouldn't ruin the young man's career prospects).

The Barbary corsairs, and similar outfits in the Muslim-controlled sections of the Med, were a whole other kettle of fish, tho' -- most of them were closer to privateers, working for one of the many Deys or Beys or similar in the area; this gave the political leaders a degree of deniability -- "I would so like to stop them but I have no way to do so" -- while still reaping the profits from the pillage and slavery rings. Independent operators were frowned upon.

Which of the two groups was worse is still a matter open to debate.

Cmmdre
11-16-2013, 17:00
This book does not romanticize either side of the piracy issue in the Mediterranean in the 17th century. In fact it focuses on the historical accounts in light of the clash of religion and give and take of commerce-warfare-protection-slavery which have always been bound up since peoples began trading and warring. Some were muslims exiled from Spain so their bent was against the Spanish and even allied with England for a short spell. Or even English men like Sir John Hawkins who on his release from a Spanish jail in 1602 was compensated with an appointment to the vice-admiralty of Devon which he abused by being in on the local piracy by getting some of the take in return for a blind eye to the activities. When some personal valuables stolen from the Venetian ambassador turned up at his Devon home Hawkins was fined, imprisoned and relieved of his post. Which by the way was not the end for Sir Hawkins as he later hooked up with Sir Robert Mansell in 1620 on an unfortunate expedition to Algiers.

The bulk of the historical facts do revolve around privateers more or less. These fleets had safe harbor along the African coast from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and either pay tribute to a local strongman or are part of his organization. The acts were ugly and slavery is an evil that continues even today in that region of the world. It is interesting as it does expose a time in history that I enjoy reading about and when dealing with crime and criminals if you follow the money you reach the real issues.

csadn
11-16-2013, 17:28
when dealing with crime and criminals if you follow the money you reach the real issues.

Yup. "It's all about the Benjamins, baby."

(Side note: To give you an idea of my personality, understand this: The "pirate" character I play prefers to find out what crimes the local government type is into, and where he keeps his ill-gotten gains -- then steals *that*. Think about it -- *WHO'S HE GOING TO COMPLAIN TO*? >:) )