The Collections

The Bombardment of Algiers, 1816

Created: 12.11.13

The Anglo-Dutch bombardment of Algiers in 1816 was a response to the problem of the ‘Barbary pirates’. From around 1600 to the early 1820s, Barbary pirates attacked European shipping in the Mediterranean. They captured ships, plundered cargoes, and held crews and passengers to ransom or sold them into slavery. The Barbary pirates operated mainly out of Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers. (‘Barbary’ comes from ‘Berber’, the original people and culture of north-west Africa.) The raiders were not strictly pirates but ‘corsairs’ who, like European privateers, operated within the laws and customs of their own states. The Barbary states also traded with Europe, so agreements were often made with local rulers to limit or end the raiding. However, these were rarely fully effective or long-lasting. After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, the British and Americans in particular decided that this was no longer tolerable. Both deployed strong naval forces to achieve what negotiation could not – most notably in the spectacular and punitive Bombardment of Algiers.


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