AskDefine | Define Barbary

Dictionary Definition

Barbary n : a region of northern Africa on the Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Gibraltar; was used as a base for pirates from the 16th to 19th centuries

User Contributed Dictionary


Proper noun

  1. The Mediterranean coastal areas of North Africa that were used as a base by pirates in the 16th to 19th centuries.

Extensive Definition

The Barbary Coast, or Barbary, was the term used by Europeans from the 16th until the 19th century to refer to the middle and western coastal regions of North Africa, what is now Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. The name is derived from the Berber people of north Africa. In the West, the name commonly evokes the Barbary pirates and slave traders, based on that coast, who attacked ships and coastal settlements in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic and captured and traded slaves from Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.
"Barbary" was almost never a unified political entity. From the sixteenth century onwards, it was divided into the familiar political entities of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripolitania (Tripoli). Major rulers during the heyday of the barbary states were the Pasha or Dey of Algiers, the Bey of Tunis and the Bey of Tripoli, all nominally subjects of the Ottoman sultan, but de facto independent rulers. Before then it was usually divided between Ifriqiya, Morocco, and a west-central Algerian state centered on Tlemcen or Tiaret, although powerful dynasties such as the Almohads, and briefly the Hafsids, occasionally unified it for short periods. From a European perspective its "capital" or chief city was often considered to be Tripoli, in modern-day Libya, although Algiers, in Algeria, and Tangiers, in Morocco, were also sometimes seen as its "capital" by Europeans of the era.
The first United States military action overseas, executed by the U.S. Marines and Navy, was the Battle of Derne, Tripoli, in 1805, in an effort to bolster diplomatic efforts in securing the freedom of American prisoners and putting an end to piracy on the part of the Barbary states. The opening line of the Marine's Hymn refers to this action:


Barbary in German: Barbareskenstaat
Barbary in Spanish: Berbería
Barbary in French: Côte des Barbaresques
Barbary in Icelandic: Barbaríið
Barbary in Italian: Stati barbareschi
Barbary in Dutch: Barbarije
Barbary in Norwegian: Barbareskkysten
Barbary in Portuguese: Berbéria
Barbary in Finnish: Barbareskivaltiot
Barbary in Swedish: Barbareskstaterna
Barbary in Ukrainian: Барбарія
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