chapter  8
14 Pages

Corsairs in Tunis From the Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries

A Matter of Religion and Economics
WithSadok Boubaker

Corsairing, like so much else in the early modern period, cannot be separated from religion. For corsairs and those who financed them, however, it was also an economic activity, and a high-risk one at that. If the ‘corso’ was a specifically Mediterranean phenomenon, corsairing was universal and not just limited to the societies of the Maghreb. It was a key part of the diplomatic relations between states affecting treaties and negotiations and so forth. Yet it must be noted that the idea that corsairs won great fortunes at sea was more imaginary than real, and any proceeds were rarely distributed fairly. Corsairing assured neither material wealth nor salvation, even when it was practiced in the name of God. It was quite simply a common human activity which was, more than anything, a response to times of crisis.