The Barbary pirates were based along the North African coast from Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean. Their main cities were in Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, and from the 16th century they robbed, plundered and took captives from ships sailing the Mediterranean Sea until about 1830. No ship was safe unless ship owners or traders paid huge ransoms to be left alone. The pirates also raided coastal settlements particularly on the Italian coast.
The Barbary pirates were made up of runaways and criminals from many countries and they were ruthless. In the fifty years between 1600 and 1650 they kidnapped and imprisoned more than 20,000 people. Rich captives could sometimes buy their freedom but poorer captives had no chance of escape and were eventually sold into slavery.
The English, Dutch, French, Spanish and Americans sent several expeditions into the Mediterranean to try and stop the piracy but it was not until 1830 when the stronghold of Algiers surrendered to the French that the Barbary pirates were stopped.
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