Essaouira Mogador is a town at the Atlantic coast of Morocco

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Pirates (The Barbary Corsairs)


The triangular trade

It is said that Mogador was a haven
for the pirates.

Ideally situated with regard to the trade winds of the North Atlantic, Mogador prospered in the triangular trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas 17th - 19th century.Goods and slaves from the sub-saharan Africa through the caravan trade passed through and Mogador had its own export of sugar and molasses from the middle ages to the 17th century. European cloth, Chinese tea was brought by the Europeans.

Barbary  Corsairs in a battle

The Barbary corsairs

The Barbary pirates or Ottoman corsairs, were pirates who operated under the cover of privateer operations authorized by the Barbary states. The Barbary pirates operated from western portion of the north Africa from Tripoli west to Moroccan ports. This became known as the Barbary coast. The Muslim Barbary pirates preyed on Christian and other non-Islamic shipping in the western Mediterranean Sea beginning with the Crusades, but more importantly inthe 16th century after the fall of Granada to the Christians (1492). The attacks continued into the early 19th century.

"The majority of corsair attacks targeted shipping, both mercantile and fishing vessels, the corsairs often gulling their victims by flying false colours before revealing their true identity only when it was too late for the unfortunate target to flee or defend itself.

The violent theft of cargoes and crews, and the concomitant sale of captives into slavery, was a common peril faced by those at sea, and was certainly not confined to attacks on British shipping by Muslims and renegades: many of England’s finest made fortunes by attacking foreign shipping, whether legally, under official Letter of Marque (announcing the proceeds and splitting the value with the Admiralty in much the same way the Barbary corsairs regulated their own trade) or as pirates, for purely private profit.

However, the Barbary corsairs proved bolder than most, raiding as far and wide as Newfoundland, Iceland, Ireland and southern England as well as Spain, Portugal and the Mediterranean coasts"

Historical Notes of Jane Johnson Author of The Sultans Wife

Isaac de Razilly (1587 – 1635)

As Richelieu and Père Joseph were attempting to establish a colonial policy, Razilly suggested them to occupy Mogador in Morocco in 1626. The objective was to create a base against the Sultan of Marrakesh, and asphyxiate the harbour of Safi. He departed for Salé on 20 July 1629 with a fleet composed of the ships Licorne, Saint-Louis, Griffon, Catherine, Hambourg, Sainte-Anne, Saint-Jean. He bombarded the city the Salé and destroyed 3 corsair ships, and then sent the Griffon under [Treilleboi] to Mogador. The men of Razilly saw the fortress of Castelo Real in Mogador, and landed 100 men with wood and supplies on Mogador island, with the agreement of Richelieu. After a few days however, the Griffon reimbarked the colonists, and departed to rejoin the fleet in Salé.

Barbary pirates in Mogador

Ahmed el Inglizi ("Ahmed the English"), also Ahmed El Alj or Ahmed Laalaj ("Ahmed the Renegade"), was an English renegade architect and engineer who worked for the Sultan of Morocco Mohammed ben Abdallah in the 18th century. As described by his surname "El Alj", Ahmed el Inglizi was a "renegade",  i.e. he had abandoned Christianity for Islam . He seems to have joined with the pirates known as the Salé Rovers.

Barbary slave trade

Slavery in North Africa – the Famous Story of Captain James Riley

Captain Riley’s story is pretty well summed up by the original title of his book.

An Authentic Narrative of the Loss of the American Brig “Commerce,” Wrecked on the Western Coast of Africa , in the Month of August, 1815, with an Account of the Sufferings of the Surviving Officers and Crew, who were Enslaved by the Wandering Arabs of the Great African Desert or Zahahrah.

While sailing from Gibraltar to the Cape Verde Islands, Riley’s mid-sized merchant ship got lost in the fog and wrecked on the west Moroccan coast. Trapped on shore and having run out of both food and water, Riley and the surviving crew threw themselves on the mercy of some passing Berber tribesmen, who promptly enslaved and carried them off into the desert. Abused, underfed, and overworked, the captives were nearly dead when their masters sold them to an Arab trader, who bought the Americans on Riley’s promise of ransom if they returned to the coast. The rest of An Authentic Narrative recounts the survivors’ slightly less brutal journey over desert and mountains to the port city of Mogador and their eventual freedom. by Adam Green

1784 - 1794

Protected from the Barbary pirates of Algiers during the American Revolution, thanks to its alliances with Morocco and France, American shipping loses that protection from 1784 and the end of the Treaty of Alliance. Subsequently, US merchant shipping continually falls foul of successive pirate raids in the Mediterranean, launched from Morocco and Algiers. Despite diplomatic efforts, large payments of tribute are demanded for the release of captured American crews, and the US regularly pays up to a million dollars a year to ensure the safe passage of its ships.

1801 - 1805

Having recommissioned its navy in 1794, the USA is becoming increasingly reluctant to pay tribute to ensure the safe passage of its merchant ships in the Mediterranean. The pasha of Tripoli demands fresh tribute of the new government of Thomas Jefferson which is refused, so Tripoli declares war on the USA. Morocco and Algiers do not join Tripoli in the conflict. The small but highly modern American navy defeats Tripoli's vessels in a number of naval skirmishes during the First Barbary War, until Tripoli agrees peace terms and the US buys back its captured seamen.

1815 - 1816

The Second Barbary War is fought by the USA in response to renewed pirate raids while it has been preoccupied with the War of 1812. A squadron of US ships captures several Algerian vessels and, after negotiations, the dey of Algiers agrees to return American captives and vessels in return for a large one-off final payment. Although this concludes the war, it does not conclude the piracy threat, so the following year, Britain sends a 'diplomatic mission' that is eventually forced to bombard Algiers for nine hours on 27 August 1816. The Dey loses many of his corsairs and shore defences, and the threat of organised Barbary piracy is ended once and for all.



Eyepatch of a pirate

One of the stereotypical features of a pirate in popular culture, the eye patch, dates back to the Arab corsair Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah, who wore it after losing an eye in battle in the 18th century.

Jolly Roger

The Jolly Roger is any of various flags flown to identify a ship's crew as pirates. The flag most commonly identified as the Jolly Roger today is the skull and crossbones, a flag consisting of a human skull above two long bones set in an x-mark arrangement on a black field. This design was used by several pirates, including Captains Edward England and John Taylor

The inhabitants of Diabat lived close to the sea and the Mogador bay and was used by the Sultan to fight the pirates. For this task they were supplied with goods and military services.

Until the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 British treaties with the North African states protected American ships from the Barbary corsairs. Morocco, which in 1777 was the first independent nation to publicly recognize the United States, became in 1784 the first Barbary power to seize an American vessel after independence. The Barbary threat led directly to the creation of the United States Navy in March 1794. While the United States managed to secure peace treaties, these obliged it to pay tribute for protection from attack. Payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary states amounted to 20% of United States government annual expenditures in 1800.

" In contrast to the dispute with Algiers, U.S. negotiations with Morocco went well. Moroccan Sultan Sidi Muhammad had seized a U.S. merchant ship in 1784 after the United States had ignored diplomatic overtures. However, Muhammad ultimately followed a policy of peaceful trade, and the United States successfully concluded a treaty with Morocco in 1786. However, Congress was still unable to raise enough funds to satisfy the Dey of Algiers."
Barbary Wars 1801-1805,1815-1816 Office of the historian.

A major figure was Moulay Ismail (1634? or 1645? – 22 March 1727) in Morocco. He was not a a pirate himself, but encouraged their operations and benefited from their operations, especially the slaves they captured and delivered.

A pirate ship

His Christian slaves were often used as bargaining counters with the European powers, selling them back their captured subjects for inflated sums or for rich gifts. Most of his slaves were obtained by Barbary pirates in raids on Western Europe.

Over 150,000 men from sub-Saharan Africa served in his elite Black Guard. By the time of Ismail's death, the guard had grown tenfold, the largest in Moroccan history.


Moulay Ismail
Moulay Ismail reigned 1672–1727.
Most of his slaves were obtained by
Barbary pirates in raids on Western Europe.


Pirate digging for a treasure


Dey (Arabic: داي, from Turkish day)
was the title given to the rulers of the Regency of Algiers (Algeria) and Tripoli under the Ottoman Empire from 1671 onwards. Twenty-nine deys held office from the establishment of the deylicate in Algeria until the French conquest in 1830.

Barbary pirate, any of the Muslim pirates operating from the coast of North Africa, at their most powerful during the 17th century but still active until the 19th century. Captains, who formed a class in Algiers and Tunis, commanded cruisers outfitted by wealthy backers, who then received 10 percent of the value of the prizes. The pirates used galleys until the 17th century, when Simon Danser, a Flemish, taught them the advantage of using sailing ships.

North African piracy had very ancient origins. It gained a political significance during the 16th century, mainly through Barbarossa (Khayr ad-Dīn), who united Algeria and Tunisia as military states under the Ottoman sultanate and maintained his revenues by piracy. With the arrival of powerful Moorish bands in Rabat and Tétouan (1609), Morocco became a new centre for the pirates and for the Alawī sultans, who quickly gained control of the two republics and encouraged piracy as a valuable source of revenue. During the 17th century, the Algerian and Tunisian pirates joined forces, and by 1650 more than 30,000 of their captives were imprisoned in Algiers alone. Piratical practices were the cause of several wars between Tripolitania and the United States in the 19th century. The British made two attempts to suppress Algerian piracy after 1815, and it was finally ended by the French in 1830. 

The Islamic Pirate Queen


The Sayyida al-Hurra and her family fled Spain for Morocco, where, after marrying and burying her first husband, she succeeded him as the governor of Tétouan before remarrying — this time into royalty. When Sayyida wed Ahmed al-Wattasi, the sultan of Morocco and ruler of Fes, she became queen of Morocco. Holding a grudge, and feeling a great deal of shame over her fallen childhood homeland and its takeover by Ferdinand and Isabella, Sayyida became hell-bent on revenge. She reached out to the famed Barbarossa, an Ottoman admiral and among the most successful corsairs, to ally with the pirates in seizing control of the nearby seas. Sayyida and her privateers would eventually take over the Western Mediterranean during the corsairs’ and Ottomans’ reign in the early 16th century.
Read more:



Carte de la Barbarie

This port synonymous with Barbary pirate.....
also from towns in the empire of Morocco, of which the most notorious was Salé.
(An article from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Carte de la Barbarie, de la Nigritie, et de la Guinée / par Guillaume Del'Isle de l'academie royale des sciences,
premier geographe du Roy ; C. Inselin sculpsit.  Map source:


View of Mogador Mr Wiltshire

From Captain James Riley story.
The Author and his mens first interview with Mr Willshire
He was a British consul in Mogador
See: Williiam Willshire

Vroom - Barbary Pirates 1615

Cornelis Hendricksz Vroom: “Spanish Men-of-War Engaging Barbary Pirates”, 1615.



Barbary pirates in Algeria

The somewhat colourful view of the Barbary pirates masked their relentless pursuit of captures
and their accumulation of wealth at the expense of innocent merchantmen.




Read more:

Piracy (Wikiwand)

Treaty with Morocco September 16, 1836 (Unites States)

The most common myths about pirates (Vintage News)