Pirate Spaces: Mapping Piracy in the Early Modern Mediterranean through Captivity Accounts

Eda Özel - PhD candidate, Department of History, Harvard University



With the recapture of Tunis in 1574, Ottomans had established partial control over and connections of mutual reliance with the North African provinces of Tunis, Algeria, and Tripoli – three historically active pirate bases in the Mediterranean. This paper will survey the accounts written by non-Muslim captives in North Africa to build a map of pirate encounters in the Mediterranean between 1574-1650. During this period, accounts of European captives provided details about sea battles, and with a strong claim of being “true” stories the captive-authors tried to be as specific as possible regarding the location of the events. This way, “hot-spots” of piracy threatening safe passage of vessels carrying military and administrative personnel, merchandise, and pilgrims, are identified. For a larger project, this paper is intended to provide at least some of the key locations related to commercial networks in the Ottoman Mediterranean for this period. To the extent that these networks influenced market prices, piracy can then be presented as an instituted element in connection to the Ottoman maritime economy, via a theoretical assessment of protection costs as an element in creation of monopolistic market power for one party over the others.




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