Barbary Coast in the expansion of international\ud society: piracy, privateering and corsairing as primary institutions

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Colas, Alejandro (2016)

From the ‘long’ sixteenth century the Ottoman regencies of North Africa operated as major centres of piracy and privateering across the Mediterranean sea. Though deemed by emerging European powers to be an expression of the ‘barbarian’ status of Muslim and Ottoman rulers and peoples, piracy and corsairing in fact played a major role in the development of the ‘primary’ or ‘master’ institutions of international society such as sovereignty, war and international law. Far from representing a ‘barbarian’ challenge to the European ‘standard of civilization’, piracy and privateering in the modern Mediterranean acted as contradictory vehicles in the\ud affirmation of that very standard.\ud \ud This paper explores in some historical detail the ways in which piracy and corsairing off the Barbary Coast in effect acted as ‘derivative’ primary institutions of international society, as Barry Buzan has labelled them. It argues that piracy and corsairing simultaneously contributed to the construction of north African sovereignty whilst also prompting successive wars and treaties aimed at outlawing such practices. The cumulative effect of these complex historical experiences was certainly the expansion of international society and its accompanying master institutions. Yet the manner of their consolidation – at least in the western Mediterranean - suggests that primary institutions of international society owe much more to ‘barbarism’ and ‘illegality’ than is commonly acknowledged.
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