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Of Corsairs, Converts and Renegades: Forms and Functions of Coastal Raiding on Both Sides of the Far Western Mediterranean

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Chapter Summary

This chapter contends endemic practices of corsair activity and coastal raiding played analogous functions on both sides of the "frontier" in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Particularly with regard to the late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century "golden age" of the so-called "Barbary corsairs", the impact of raids launched from North African ports and the resulting taking and ransoming of Christian captives and slaves have received considerable scholarly attention. Corsair activity in the years around 1500 on both the northwestern African and southern Iberian coasts reflected all patterns of local as well as regional patronage politics. A critical point of similarity between North African and southern Iberian coastal corsair activity in this era in fact lies in the economic and commercial centrality of raiding within both societies. Across the Mediterranean, the Ottoman-Habsburg naval wars marked an era of significant decline in all forms of piracy and corsair raiding.

Keywords: coastal raiding; corsairs; renegades; Western Mediterranean



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