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The Barbary Wars: America’s Most Successful Foreign Intervention

Since its basis in 1775 the United States has develop into well-known for its tendency to intervene in overseas international locations when its nationwide safety is threatened. But whereas a lot has been written and mentioned concerning the latest errors of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, little or no consideration has been given to the United States of America’s journey to North Africa within the nineteenth century. The earliest and maybe most profitable instance of American interventionism, the Barbary Wars, raged between 1801 and 1815, pitting American seamen and marines in opposition to fearsome Mediterranean pirates. However, in contrast to a lot of their later invasions, and seen in its correct historic context, it appears American actions right here have been totally justified.

A Barbary pirate, by Pier Francesco Mola, (1650) (Public Domain)

A Barbary pirate, by Pier Francesco Mola, (1650) ( Public Domain )

The Barbary Pirates

To most, the 1492 expulsion of the Muslims from Granada by Spanish crusaders is most well-known for marking the ultimate act of the Reconquista, however it is usually by the way the place the story of the Barbary pirates begins. In the fallout a pirate captain referred to as Barbarossa, wishing to capitalize on the ensuing political chaos, led a collection of daring sallies in opposition to the North African cities of Djerba and Algiers. Barbarossa’s actions didn’t go unnoticed and he was quickly talent-spotted by the Ottomans, a significant regional participant, and made commander-in-chief of their navy.

Working in tandem together with his previous crewmates, Barbarossa step by step fought again in opposition to the renewed Christian presence within the Mediterranean, dealing their united fleets a mortal blow on the Battle of Preveza in 1538. From this level on, the Ottoman empire continued to collaborate and offer protection to brigands. But in 1571 the stability of energy was irrevocably shifted after the defeat of the Ottomans to a mixed Christian navy on the Battle of Lepanto. No longer the inferior associate, the Barbary pirates crammed the facility vacuum {that a} much-weakened Ottoman fleet had left behind, plundering and pillaging the Mediterranean with renewed depth.

Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha defeats the Holy League of Charles V under the command of Andrea Doria at the Battle of Preveza (1538) (Public Domain)

Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha defeats the Holy League of Charles V below the command of Andrea Doria on the Battle of Preveza (1538) ( Public Domain )

Nevertheless by the primary half of the seventeenth century Barbary corsairs have been as soon as once more working with the Ottoman Empire, who continued to view piracy as a profitable and bonafide supply of revenue. In truth so troublesome have been they changing into that Western European powers now discovered themselves having to take preemptive motion, as was the case in 1655 when legendary British sea captain William Blake demolished a port in Tunis to stem the tide of banditry.


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Jake Leigh-Howarth holds a masters diploma in Modern History from the University of Leeds, the place he specialised within the travelogues of Western guests to Soviet Central Asia. His favourite historic intervals embrace the Tamerlane Empire, the Mongolian Empire, and the Eleusinian Mysteries of Ancient Greece.

Top Image : The bombardment of Tripoli on 3 August 1804, by Michele Felice Cornè ( Public Domain )

By:  Jake Leigh-Howarth


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