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The History of Maritime Piracy

Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425


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Books for Adults - Nonfiction

Cover Art: Pirates of Barbary
Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the 17th-Century Mediterranean
By Adrian Tinniswood
Jonathan Cape, 2010, ISBN 978-0-224-08526-7, £20.00
Penguin USA, Nov. 2010, 9781594487743, $26.95

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As Somali pirates are the thorn in maritime shipping today, so were the Barbary Corsairs of North Africa four centuries ago. Many histories on this topic cover either the entire period in which these pirates and privateers hunted, or they focus on the 19th century, when nations of the west finally succeeded in curtailing these corsairs. Tinniswood, however, examines them during a period when westerners introduced them to the round ships, those of western construction that permitted the corsairs to sail as far away as Iceland to acquire booty and slaves. The principal perspective is from that of the English, although American and other western nations are included.
 
Early chapters focus on infamous corsairs and Europeans who sailed for the Barbary States, some of whom turned Turk (converted to Islam and attacked ships of Christian nations): Khair ad-Din, John Ward, Sir Francis Verney, Simon Danseker, Peter Eston, Sir Henry Mainwaring, and Jan Janszoon of Haarlem. Also intertwined through the information presented here are first-hand accounts of corsair raids, their captives, and how the various governments attempted to deal with the pirates, oftentimes with little success. Barbary perspectives are shared to provide a well-rounded picture of this seventeenth-century problem.
 
Maps, illustrations, and quotes from primary documents enliven and emphasize the narrative. One stellar chapter that captures the readerís imagination is the recounting of Murad Raisí attack on Baltimore, Ireland and the plight of the nearly one hundred captives he took with him. Chapter notes, a bibliography, and an index round out this highly readable and understandable story of a truly frightening episode in maritime history. Whether readers are interested in delving deeper into a particular time in Barbary corsair history or just want a good introduction to these corsairs and their exploits, Pirates of Barbary fits the bill.
 
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Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar


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