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Turks, Moors, Deys and Kingdoms: North African Diversity in English Periodical News before 1700


Abstract and Figures

This paper explores, using the case study of diversity, the usefulness of the English-language news press as a window into early modern British perceptions of North Africa. While historians typically argue that most Britons knew very little about North Africa and its people, haphazardly employing “Turk” or “Moor” to stand in for all Muslims (and a great deal more), the news press provides fascinating evidence for a robust and detailed understanding of North African ethnic, political and religious diversity that was made available to thousands of Britons, including those in a position to profoundly impact international relations.
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turks, moors, deys ANd kiNgdoms: North
AfricAN diversity iN eNglish News Before
Nat Cutter
This paper explores, using the case study of diversity, the usefulness of
the English-language news press as a window into early modern British
perceptions of North Africa. While historians typically argue that most
Britons knew very little about North Africa and its people, haphazardly
employing ‘Turk’ or ‘Moor’ to stand in for all Muslims (and a great deal
more), the news press provides fascinating evidence for a robust and
detailed understanding of North African ethnic, political and religious
diversity that was made available to thousands of Britons, including
those in a position to profoundly impact international relations.
It is a commonplace in historical studies of the period that the typical Briton in
the seventeenth century knew little or nothing true about North Africa and its
people. While actual personal encounters with North Africa were surprisingly
common, these experiences rarely reached the public domain. Theatrical
representations of North Africans, according to Nabil Matar, were ‘types
nearly always based on Spanish and Italian literary sources and never on actual
familiarity with Muslims…[playwrights] invented stage Muslims without
any historical or religious verisimilitude’.2 Sermons, aiming to encourage
donations to redeem captives and discourage conversion to Islam, were lled
with ‘Muslims imagined and determined by wild theological interpretations’,
the ‘ahistorical…eternal enemies of Christendom’.3 Katie Sisneros comes to a
similar conclusion about broadside ballads:
their purpose was not to represent the Turk at all. Rather, it was to
1 I would like to acknowledge the wonderful contributions of my supervisors, Richard Pennell
and Una McIlvenna, the team and anonymous readers at MHJ, and above all Belinda Cutter,
without whom none of this would be possible. This research is supported by an Australian
Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship.
2 Nabil Matar, ‘‘Introduction: England and Mediterranean Captivity, 1577-1704’ in Piracy,
Slavery, and Redemption, edited by Daniel J. Vitkus (New York: Columbia University Press,
2001), 4.
3 Gerald MacLean and Nabil Matar, Britain and the Islamic World (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2011), 26-28.
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Melbourne Historical Journal
represent a wide variety of enemies of the English by using a term
that was largely accessible by the majority of English subjects He
was the enemy, any enemy Catholics, anti-Catholics, the French,
Presbyters, Jesuits, Jews, and the Devil himself.’4
Though, as Daniel Vitkus has argued, these forms of popular culture in many
cases had signicant inuence on cultural tropes surrounding North Africa,
and provide to modern scholars fascinating insight into ‘an anxious interest
in Islamic power that is both complicated and overdetermined’, they could
not be considered reliable sources on the real North Africa.5 For those who
wished to access such information, the knowledge gap was sometimes lled
by the somewhat more factual accounts written by captives and travellers
who had encountered North Africans in person. However, these were few in
number and often dicult to access, even as they increased throughout the
seventeenth century. Vitkus and Matar list just fteen unique Barbary captivity
narratives published before 1714 (with a total of nineteen editions) which
provide, according to Matar, ‘the most extensive description of England’s
early modern encounter with Islam and Muslims in North Africa’.6 Captives
were well-placed to report on real conditions in North Africa, and while some
of their narratives, like William Okeley’s Eben-Ezer, printed three times in
the 1670s and 1680s, and Francis Knights’ A Relation of Seven Yeares Slavery
(published in London, 1640), which Matar calls ‘the rst accurate description
of Algeria by an English writer’, were more popular, inuential or reliable than
others, due to their limited circulation their impact is dicult to determine.7
Traveller accounts of North Africa were even fewer and largely less accurate
than captivity narratives, mixing ction, rumour, generalisations, previous
accounts and actual experiences that made them closer to entertainment than
Gradually after the Restoration, some more accurate printed news and studies
of North Africa began to emerge. Karim Bejjit has collected some eighteen
published accounts on the English occupation of Tangier (1662-84), each
based on ‘close and sustained contact with the local population both in times
of peace and war’, though overwhelmingly ltered through the needs and
4 Katie Sisneros, ‘“The Abhorred Name of Turk“: Muslims and the Politics of Identity in
Seventeenth-Century English Broadside Ballads’ (PhD diss., University of Minnesota, 2016),
5 Daniel Vitkus, ed., Three Turk plays from early modern England : Selimus, A Christian turned Turk,
and The renegado (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 3-4.
6 Matar, ‘Introduction’, 6; Daniel J. Vitkus, ed., Piracy, Slavery and Redemption, 371-76.
7 Nabil Matar, Britain and Barbary (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005), 62-64.
8 See Matar, ‘Introduction,’ 2-3; MacLean and Matar, Britain and the Islamic World, 17-18.
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ambitions of the Tangier community.9 More formal ‘scholarly’ accounts based
on eyewitness testimony began to appear about the same time, with accounts
like Tangier chaplain Lancelot Addison’s West Barbary (London, 1671) and The
Present State of the Jews (London, 1675, 1676, 1682), based partly on interviews
with Moroccans, beginning to become popular. Addison’s work found its way
into the libraries of Hans Sloane and Robert Hooke, and was even translated
into German in 1676.10 Richard Blome’s A Description of the Island of Jamaica was
originally printed in 1672. In the 1678 reprinting, and subsequent editions, it
included the tract: ‘together with the present state of Algiers’; while George Meriton
included a section on Barbary in his 1671 Geographical Description of the World.11
Kenneth Parker, emphasising the under-use of government publications in
historiographical accounts of this process, highlights the ocial publication of
Articles of Peace negotiated with Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli in 1662, 1677, and
1682, which aimed to establish rights for merchants and diplomats in these
states and provide assurance of ongoing peaceful engagement.12 Nevertheless,
none of these texts both enjoyed a large circulation, and aimed to distinguish
and describe North Africa and its people. Therefore, what accurate information
they oered was often lost among a confusion of ction, polemic and fear.13
Without a corpus of sources to indicate a more robust and accurate vision of
North African life, numerous scholars have concluded that the term ‘Turk’
in popular English-language discourse stood in as a prejudice-laden, generic
term for all Muslims, and a great deal more besides, taking into account little
of the great ethnic, political and religious diversity that existed throughout the
Islamic world, including North Africa.14
9 Karim Bejjit, English Colonial Texts on Tangier (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015), xi.
10 See William J. Bulman, ‘Constantine’s Enlightenment: Culture and Religious Politics in the
Early British Empire’ (PhD diss., Princeton University, 2009), 84-85, 92-93.
11 Kenneth Parker, ‘Reading “Barbary“ in Early Modern England, 1550-1685’, Seventeenth
Century 19, 1 (2004): 99; Matar, Britain and Barbary, 145.
12 Parker, ‘Reading “Barbary”’, 101-5.
13 Linda Colley, Captives (London: Jonathan Cape, 2002), 83; Matar, ‘Introduction’, 2-5. Gerald
Maclean writes that by 1660, ‘certain aspects of the Ottoman state were evidently well known’
but ‘the Ottoman “Turk“ remained a rather distant but an increasingly familiar gure, most
often a non-Christian enemy, but seldom simply that.’ This level of information, however,
is not generally understood to have been available on North Africa during the seventeenth
century. See Gerald Maclean, Looking East (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 208.
See also Jo-Ann Esra, ‘Diplomacy, Piracy and Commerce’, in Christian-Muslim Relations: A
Bibliographic History, volume 8, edited by David Thomas and John Chesworth (Leiden: Brill,
2016), 15-34.
14 For examinations of the use of ‘Turk’ and ‘Moor’ see Richmond Barbour, Before Orientalism
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 15; Emily C. Bartels, Speaking of the Moor
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 14; Timothy Brook, Vermeer’s Hat
(London: Prole Books, 2009), 261; Palmira Brummet, ‘“Turks” and “Christians“’, in The
Religions of the Book, edited by Matthew Dimmock and Andrew Hadeld (New York:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 113-14; Jonathan Burton, Trac and Turning (Newark: University
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News As A source for North AfricA
However, one major body of sources has been under-utilised in the
reconstruction of popular knowledge of North Africa in the seventeenth
century. Materials published in the periodical news press provide evidence
of a far more specic and accurate understanding of North African diversity,
made available repeatedly and in great numbers both to the political and
literary elites of England who wrote and distributed the news, and to a vast and
socially diverse group of readers. This understanding contributed to shifting
and developing popular perceptions of North Africa, as well as contributing to
the character of actual interactions.
I have undertaken for this paper an extensive survey of British printed news
coverage of North African aairs, with a view to illuminating the extent of
knowledge available to those who freely settled in the region (mostly middle-
class, urban, English men). These individuals likely already had access to
better information, if they wanted it, from the scholarly sources named above
and from eye-witnesses who moved through the ports and corridors of power
in London. However, it has been recognised only to a very limited extent that
seventeenth century newspapers provided to their readers in England, and
now provide to modern historians, a veritable treasure trove of information
about North Africa and its people. Nabil Matar and Gerald Maclean, the
premier twenty-rst century scholars of British interaction with North Africa,
use newspapers sparingly, usually as ‘side-glances’ from their main narratives
compiled from other sources, despite acknowledging that ‘there was a vast
production of various forms of newspapers containing information about
the Ottoman Empire’.15 Ros Ballaster, Robert Davis, and Linda Colley each
of Delaware Press, 2005), 16; Jesús López-Peláez Casellas, ‘“Race“ and the Construction of
English National Identity’, Studies in Philology 106, 1 (Winter 2009), 40; Emily Kugler, Sway of
the Ottoman Empire on the English Identity in the Long Eighteenth Century (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 12-
13, 26-27; Maclean, Looking East, 6-8, 202; Gerald Maclean, ‘Milton among the Muslims’, in The
Religions of the Book, 182-84; Gerald Maclean, The Rise of Oriental Travel (Houndmills: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2004), 167; MacLean and Matar, Britain and the Islamic World, 32; N.I. Matar, Turks,
Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999),
6; Linda McJannet, ‘Islam and English Drama: A Critical History’, Early Theatre 12, 2 (2009):
185-86; Benedict S. Robinson, Islam and Early Modern English Literature (Houndmills: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2007), 5, 6-7; Sisneros, ‘“The Abhorred Name of Turk“’, 8, 16-17; John Tolan, Henry
Laurens and Gilles Veinstein, Europe and the Islamic World: A History (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 2013), 3; Daniel Vitkus, Turning Turk (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan,
2003), 90-91.
15 MacLean and Matar, Britain and the Islamic World, 240. See also Matar, Britain and Barbary,
160; Nabil Matar, Islam in Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 161; Nabil
Matar, ‘The Last Moors: Maghāriba in Early Eighteenth-Century Britain’, Journal of Islamic
Studies 14, 1 (2003): 48, 51; Matar, Turks, Moors and Englishmen, 38-39.
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briey note the widespread presence of newspaper reports surrounding North
Africa and their role in circulating news from that area, but none venture to
an extended analysis.16 I argue that this study promises to provide valuable
information on English-speaking perceptions of North Africa, for the following
Firstly, the sheer volume of information provided by news sources adds a vast
amount of material to extant sources on North African history. I have collected
for this study over 2,300 individual news items partly or wholly concerning
North Africa and North Africans before 1700, a corpus totalling approximately
260,000 words. As indicated above, this volume of information available to
English-language readers in the news media dwarfs any other collection which
historians have considered to be a leading sources of public information and
perceptions about North Africa. The scale and range of this news reporting
expands the possibilities for extensive quantitative and qualitative research to
be undertaken into, for example, the scale, patterns and change over time in
North African naval attacks against Europeans (and vice versa); the routes by
which news about North Africa reached Britain; and North African military
and naval tactics. In addition, these sources, by virtue of their range and
number, occasionally preserve previously unknown or lost texts, including
lists of redeemed Barbary captives, lists of North African pirate eets, and
rst-hand accounts from Europeans, including Britons, living in or visiting
North Africa. These sources promise to usefully complement and extend
existing knowledge.
Secondly, the periodical news press’s broad circulation and reputation for
accurate and ‘fresh’ news makes this corpus a vital source for understanding
public perceptions and knowledge of North Africa. Though Sisneros rightly
argues that broadside ballads were one of the only published sources
referencing Muslims that reliably and consistently reached the poor, illiterate,
rural and migrant populations of Britain, it is well-established that particularly
by the later seventeenth century, news media also reached a vast and socially
diverse readership.17 Throughout the period, according to Joad Raymond,
the ‘British public had a nearly pathological interest in reading and hearing
news’.18 By the early eighteenth century, it was a common cause of concern
16 Ros Ballaster, Fables of the East (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 104; Colley, Captives,
83; Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003),
17 Sisneros, ‘“The Abhorred Name of Turk“’, 9-10, 13-14, 22-26.
18 Joad Raymond, ‘The newspaper, public opinion, and the public sphere in the seventeenth
century’, Prose Studies 21, 2 (1998): 109.
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and ridicule among higher-class men that newspapers provided foreign news
to ‘half-educated readers … moving about in worlds not realised’.19 According
to Carolyn Nelson and Matthew Seccombe, periodical publications, mostly
news, comprised around a quarter of all publications in Britain between 1641
and 1700 some 31,000 individual issues.20 Natasha Glaisyer has shown that
the Oxford (later London) Gazette, the only English-language periodical running
continuously from 1665-1700 and England’s only news periodical from 1665-78
and 1685-95, enjoyed a vast circulation in the period: 13,000-15,000 per issue in
1666, 4,000-7,000 in 1678-81, 10,000-19,000 in 1695-97, and 7,000-12,000 in 1705-
7.21 Raymond calls it ‘a model of publicity, essential to the coee-house culture
of the day’.22 The most popular papers founded after publishing restrictions
were eased in 1695, the Post Boy and Post Man, both of which focussed on
foreign news, sold 3000-4000 copies per issue by 1704.23 However, even these
impressive gures belie the potential readership: since many newspapers were
passed around to correspondents, read aloud in public, or bought by coee-
houses or clubs to be read repeatedly by patrons, scholars have estimated that
individual issues frequently reached hundreds if not thousands of people.24
The Gazette focused heavily on foreign news, in part because the English court
did not wish their proceedings to be made too public, and in part because local
news was likely to have already been transmitted widely by word of mouth.
This paper held such a reputation for reliability and broadly non-partisan
reporting surrounding foreign events that it became a journal of record for
use in contemporary historical research and even court cases, as well as being
relished by a wide public.25 This reputation for reliability in large part was
warranted, since its information came directly from the oces of the Secretaries
of State. Distilled from dispatches sent from diplomatic personnel, Gazette
reports contained the most reliable and up-to-date information from rst-
19 James Sutherland, The Restoration Newspaper and its Development (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1986), 145; Raymond, ‘The newspaper, public opinion, and the public
sphere’, 121.
20 Carolyn Nelson and Matthew Seccombe, British Newspapers and Periodicals 1641-1700 (New
York: Modern Language Association of America, 1987), vii.
21 Natasha Glaisyer, ‘The Most Universal Intelligencers: The circulation of the London Gazette
in the 1690s’, Media History 23, 2 (2017): 259; John Childs, ‘The Sales of Government Gazettes
during the Exclusion Crisis, 1678-81’, English Historical Review 102, 402 (January 1987): 103-6;
Raymond, ‘The newspaper,’ 123.
22 Raymond, ‘The newspaper, public opinion, and the public sphere’, 127.
23 Jerey R. Wigelsworth, ‘Bipartisan politics and practical knowledge: advertising of public
science in two London newspapers, 1695-1720’, British Journal for the History of Science 41, 4
(December 2008): 519 and note 7. This is the earliest year statistics are available.
24 Sutherland, Restoration Newspaper, 28, 127, 142.
25 Glaisyer, ‘The Most Universal Intelligencers’, 262-64.
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hand English sources in North Africa, as well as indirect reports transmitted
through diplomats in European ports and capitals where news often arrived
before it was sent to England.26 When other newspapers appeared which
placed a higher emphasis on domestic news than the government-controlled
Gazette, the still signicant quantity of foreign news they contained reached an
even broader audience, including many who would not normally take notice
of such events.27 These non-government newspapers mainly gathered their
news from Dutch and French newspapers, which had their own direct and
indirect sources, but they occasionally also published their own foreign letters,
and information gathered from ships arriving in English ports. In many cases,
these papers were seen as even more trustworthy than the Gazette, since their
editorial policy was not set ‘by Authority’ at Whitehall.28 The reports received
by news writers are always reported as anonymous, but by tracing the date
and origin provided, news can be closely linked to surviving diplomatic
dispatches from throughout the Mediterranean world.29
Finally, because of its sources and reputation, the periodical news press can
be seen as both an expression of, and inuence on the perceptions of the elites
in government, diplomacy and trade who determined the course of British
relations with North Africa. Written by government employees on the back of
diplomatic correspondence, the Gazette is the most pure expression of ocial
views, but all papers prioritised accuracy and rst-hand information, and
readers thus placed a great deal of trust in their content.30 It has long been
recognised that individuals with actual experience of North Africa, in the
words of C.R. Pennell, ‘knew North Africa best’, but it is generally assumed that
this knowledge only rarely diused into the broader community.31 However,
through newspapers, experienced diplomatic opinions were heard directly by
26 Glaisyer, ‘The Most Universal Intelligencers’, 261-62; P.M. Handover, A History of the
London Gazette 1665-1965 (London: HM Stationery Oce, 1965), 4, 11-12, 21-22, 25-26, 36-37;
Keith Williams, The English Newspaper (London: Springwood Books, 1977), 13-16; Michael
Harris, ‘Timely notices: The uses of advertising and its relationship to news during the late
seventeenth century’, Prose Studies 21, 2 (1998): 145-47.
27 Sutherland, Restoration Newspaper, 13.
28 Sutherland, Restoration Newspaper, 123-26, 130-35, 137-40; Rachel Scarborough King, ‘The
Manuscript Newsletter and the Rise of the Newspaper, 1665-1715’, Huntington Library
Quarterly 79, 3 (Autumn 2016): 411-14, 424, 429-30, 435-37; Handover, History, 11-12.
29 A detailed analysis of the sources and channels of reporting, and how editors or the
secretaries altered original reports before they reached the public is beyond the scope of this
paper, but will be fruitful ground for subsequent research.
30 Sutherland, Restoration Newspaper, 123-26, 130-35; King, ‘The Manuscript Newsletter’, 411-14,
424, 429-30, 435-37; Handover, History, 11-12.
31 C.R. Pennell, Piracy and Diplomacy in Seventeenth-Century North Africa (Rutherford: Fairleigh
Dickinson University Press, 1989), 54; Parker, ‘Reading “Barbary“,’ 104-5.
100 Articles 46 v02.indd 67 10/5/19 3:50 pm
the public – and they were read enthusiastically.32 Mark Hanna, in his study
of early eighteenth century news coverage of piracy, writes that ‘newspapers
brought deep-sea piracy into colonists’ homes, nurturing the perception of a
grand Atlantic crime wave’.33 It is reasonable to assume that North African
aairs, dominated as they were in English news by naval warfare and
captivity, inspired similar interest, and penetrated the popular imagination to
a similar extent. Readers would be attracted by the exotic appeal of reading
about strange and distant places, the diplomatic and economic logic of
understanding the culture of foreign lands before selling to or negotiating with
them, and the voyeuristic attraction presented by tales of Barbary captivity.
But even more importantly for the business and political community who
most avidly consumed foreign news, the ever-present threats of naval attack
against English shipping, of land attack against the British colony at Tangier
from 1661-84, and from the predilection among North African governments
to seize English goods or agents in the event of conict, made knowledge of
North African aairs vital information for the promotion of trade throughout
the Old World.34 As Gerald Maclean notes,
interest in matters Ottoman were by no means reserved for those
involved in high and sometimes secretive matters of state … the
activities of English merchants and diplomats in the Ottoman Empire
were the subject of considerable public interest.35
Since diplomats and other expatriates in North Africa were overwhelmingly
drawn from the literate, urban middle-class in England, and were usually at
one point or another engaged with maritime trade, the news media in London
eectively reached the social group most likely to inuence political and
economic relations between England and North Africa in the future. Moreover,
the Gazette is known to have circulated widely among government employees,
even being sent abroad to diplomats and trading houses in foreign countries,
meaning that those who left England still likely retained links to her media
representations.36 The precise inuence news representations had on actual
32 Gerald Maclean, Culture and Society in the Stuart Restoration (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1995), 243.
33 Mark G. Hanna, Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740 (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 372.
34 Elizabeth Lane Furdell, ‘Grub Street Commerce: Advertisements and Politics in the Early
Modern British Press’, Historian 63, 1 (2000): 38; Nabil Matar, ‘Britons and Muslims in the early
modern period: from prejudice to (a theory of) toleration’, Patterns of Prejudice 43, 3 (2009): 215-
16; Maclean, Looking East, 208, 215-17; Matar, ‘Introduction’, 5; Raymond, ‘The newspaper’,
127-28; Sutherland, Restoration Newspaper, 12, 127, 131.
35 Maclean, Looking East, 205.
36 Glaisyer, ‘The Most Universal Intelligencers’, 261.
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interactions with North Africa is dicult to ascertain, but would provide
fruitful material for future research.
Taken together, then, the news press provides historians of British-North
African relations with an unprecedented quantity of reliable information
from a variety of sources, that repeatedly reached a vast number of people in
diversity iN North AfricA
One immediate application of this study is an exploration of that conventional
wisdom surrounding the terms ‘Turk’ and ‘Moor’. As discussed above, it is
widely agreed among historians that in seventeenth century English-language
popular discourse, the word ‘Turk’ (and sometimes ‘Moorfor North Africa)
was used as a generic term for all Muslims, and any understanding of ethnic,
religious or political divisions within this monolithic community was patchy
at best. According to Maclean,
Christian culture in England had for so long dened itself in contrast to
Islam that the words ‘Turk’ and ‘Turkish’ were not only synonymous
with Muslim and Islamic but had also come to refer to a generalised
range of personal qualities and meanings that could be applied to
anyone, regardless of ethnicity or religion, including the English
themselves if they behaved in certain ways.37
More specic knowledge gradually became available but it is generally
believed that this did not signicantly lter outside the corridors of power and
specic interest groups, into pulpits, stages, and the popular press, until well
into the eighteenth century.38 However, the periodical news press presented
a more accurate and less monolithic expression, and made this expression
available to a vast audience much earlier than previously understood.
North Africa in the seventeenth century was a patchwork of political, ethnic
and religious divisions. The region now known as Morocco was composed
of four separate historic kingdoms (Morocco, Fez, Sus, and Talalt), which in
the seventeenth century were as often divided by civil war or rebellions as
united under a single ruler. The Regencies of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli were
all nominally ruled from the Turkish Ottoman court at Istanbul, but each
had its own distinctive governments, levels of autonomy, and diplomatic
37 Maclean, ‘Milton among the Muslims’, 182.
38 Matar, Britain and Barbary, 3; Matar, ‘Britons and Muslims’, 215-16; Matar, Turks, Moors and
Englishmen, 6-8. See also Sisneros, ‘“The Abhorred Name of Turk“’, 7, 153-54.
100 Articles 46 v02.indd 69 10/5/19 3:50 pm
relationships. There was a small number of Anatolian Turks in the Regencies,
but they were concentrated in capitals and major cities, and held the vast
majority of political and military oces, as well as ocial sovereignty over
all such activities. Outside these urban areas, the population of the regencies,
and the whole of Morocco, remained ethnically Maghrebi-Arab in coastal and
fertile plain areas, and nomadic Arab-Berber in the mountains and deserts,
in addition to minority populations of Jews, black sub-Saharan Africans,
and white European-born converts to Islam. North African religion was also
variegated and distinct from Anatolian, Levantine or Arabian Islam.39 In short,
North Africa was an extremely diverse region, and any reliable source should
have presented the categories and divisions that existed there.
Precise and accurate North African divisions are evident throughout the
English news corpus, but they vary according to the content, source and extent
of reporting. At the most basic level, ‘Barbary’ or ‘Africa’ is used to distinguish
the people of North Africa from their Muslim siblings in the Levant, Anatolia,
Persia and India. ‘Turk’ and ‘Moor appear as ‘national’ terms, but also as
‘ethnic’ terms that cross political lines (contrasted with one another, and with
the Islamic ‘Arab’, ‘Negro’, and ‘Renegade’). News writers, when appropriate,
make clear distinctions between Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, and
recognise their autonomy from one another and the Ottoman Empire. They
recognise distinctive governmental structures and oces, including the
dierent roles held by Beys, Deys, Aghas, Pashas and Divans of the regencies,
and the Emperor and constituent kingdoms of Morocco as well as warlords
and rebels. Very occasionally they also reference diverse religious practices.
I wish to argue that (at least in relation to North Africa) ‘Turk’ in the news
described not an imaginary enemy, or an undierentiated Muslim, but in line
with reality, the ethnic Turks and the North African governments, territories,
armies, and navies they controlled. Likewise, I argue that ‘Moor’ was meant
to convey the non-nomadic, Arabic-speaking North Africans who ruled
the Regencies before the Turks and continued living under them after the
Ottoman conquest, as well as the entities and jurisdictions elsewhere this
group continued to rule. Since Arab, Negro, and Renegade are terms that
appear far less frequently, I will only briey survey their usage, but each usage
39 For this overview, see Jamil M. Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib in the Islamic Period
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 10-25, 160-65, 170-79, 191-92, 215-40; Magali
Morsy, North Africa 1800-1900 (London: Longman, 1984), 30-36, 38-50; Phillip Naylor, North
Africa (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009), 116-40; Matar, Britain and Barbary, 3; C.R.
Pennell, Morocco (Oxford: Oneworld, 2003), 78-108.
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of these terms presents further evidence that one term could not encompass all
Muslims, even to the distant Britons.
turks, moors, ArABs, Negroes, reNegAdes
It is very clear from even a cursory examination of the English-language news
corpus that the most common terms for North African Muslims used in English
sources (Turk, Moor, Arab, Negro, and Renegade, hereafter TMANR; see Table
1) were not completely interchangeable.40 Of the 884 articles in my corpus that
use one of these terms to characterise North Africans, 126 (14.3 per cent) contain
reference to more than one term, and 370 (41.9 per cent) also contain national
or sub-national referents, suggesting that single terms were not sucient, or
that multiple categories were recognised.41 In 620 articles, North Africans are
described using national categories alone, without using these terms at all (see
Table 2). Moreover, in many cases, even apparently general usage of TMANR
terms is perfectly logical based on actual conditions in North Africa, and does
not preclude a nuanced national and ethnic understanding of divisions.
‘Turk’ is the most common single term used to describe the North African
people of the Regencies (408 articles). However, in most items employing
this term, the news writers show an awareness of others, either referencing
multiple TMANR terms ‘Turks, Moors and Renegades’, eighty-six articles
(21.0 per cent) – and/or distinguishing certain ‘Turks’ from others of dierent
national or regional aliation – ‘the Turkish ships of Algiers’ or ‘of Barbary’,
235 articles (57.5 per cent). Either ‘Turk’ alone was not sucient without a
national marker, or it was one among several available and distinct categories
for dierent groups of people.
Of the 173 articles (42.4 per cent) in my corpus using ‘Turk’ to describe North
Africans without including any other distinction, all but twenty-four are
very brief reports of feared, planned or actual encounters with North African
ships. Given that all Regency ships were licensed, owned, and commanded
40 Since the Ottoman Empire was so large and important, I have excluded from these gures
references to “Turk” in the press unless they can be reasonably linked to North Africa or North
Africans. It is acknowledged this limits the number of references, and that generic uses of Turk
impacted on the ways North African Turks were viewed, however the number of references
examined here remains signicant.
41 In calculating references to nationality, I have included references to individuals and
’people’, ‘those’ ships, and armies ‘of [place]’ (e.g. the Lemon Tree of Algiers, those of Tunis,
the people of Tripoli), because these are uses where TMANR terms might be reasonably
substituted by writers (e.g. Turks Admiral). For the same reason I have excluded references to
Emperors, Kings, Deys, Beys, Governments, Ambassadors and Divans ‘of [place]’ and instead
counted them as examples of knowledge of political institutions and sovereignty (see below).
100 Articles 46 v02.indd 71 10/5/19 3:50 pm
by ethnically Turkish rulers, and that the numbers of Regency ships attacking
Christian shipping around North Africa almost invariably dwarfed those
from Morocco, it is not unreasonable for news writers in brief reports to use
‘Turk’ as shorthand for ‘Muslim pirate’. In eect, most Muslim ships that
Christian sailors encountered were ‘Turkish’ in a political sense, if not always
individually staed and commanded by Anatolian Ottomans. These articles are
rarely hostile or polemical, preferring to recall only the bare facts, suggesting
that they were not using ‘Turk’ as the slur described above by Maclean and
Sisneros. For example, in 1671 it was reported that a Tangier ship was ‘lately
engaged with three Turkish ones on the Coast of Barbary; had maintained for a
long time a sharp ght with them; and was since safely arrived thither again.’42
Even in such short reports, moreover, ships are very often referred to by their
national jurisdiction as well as or instead of ‘Turk’, meaning that ‘Turk’ alone
was not the norm.43
Among the remaining items which employed only ‘Turk’, several times it
appears as a generalist term in the politically- and religiously-charged context
of captivity. In 1652, the Faithful Scout reported that Parliament debated
the sad and deplorable condition of many hundreds of poor Christians,
which have long lain under the persecution of Turkish Tyranny; and
after some Debate thereupon came to this glorious Result … to redeem
poor English Captives from exile of cruel slavery … A prosperous Gale
attend his Motion; and a Christian Vote, and Blessing, be present, in all
his Debates and Consultations; for, doubtless, ’tis a Sacrice pleasing
both to God and Man.44
In this and similar cases, the emotive power of ‘Turk’ to inspire readers into
support of anti-captivity initiatives seems to have won out over concerns for
accuracy. In several more cases, the article purports to come directly from
correspondents on the ground in North Africa, so the use of Turk is more
likely to be accurate than generalist – there simply were no reasons to mention
ethnicities or nationalities in the context of the story.45
42 LG, 28-31 August 1671.
43 See e.g. Last News Concerning the Arrival of Bethel Gabor, 30 May 1623; Moderate Intelligencer,
1-8 October 1646; Mercurius Publicus, 24-31 January 1661; LG, 3-6 February 1668, 22-25 August
1670, 6-10 February 1679.
44 Faithful Scout, 23-30 January 1652. The spelling in all quotes have been modernised, but
punctuation retained.
45 LG, 29 March-1 April 1669; True Protestant Mercury, 22-29 June 1681; Domestic Intelligence, 22-
25 August 1681; Post Man, 3-5 August 1699.
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Outside of these articles, the term ‘Turk’ refers exclusively to entities under the
jurisdiction of the Ottoman Regencies, often in deliberate opposition to subjects
of Morocco, and to Moors, Arabs, Negroes and Renegades.46 No Moroccan
subject, except perhaps those who left their country and took up service or
residence under the Ottoman Regencies, appears to have been referred to as
‘Turk’. This provides the rst indication that ‘Turk’, at least in relation to North
Africa, was not a monolithic term used to describe all Muslims.
Similarly, ‘Moormost commonly describes the people and ships of Morocco
and her constituent kingdoms; there is no signicant evidence in the news press
to indicate that ‘Moor’ was inaccurately used to describe Turkish Ottomans.47
However, since Morocco was overwhelmingly populated by Arabic-speaking,
non-nomadic native North Africans, and, as argued above, it was reasonable
to refer to groups of people from a polity by the ethnicity of the ruling class,
it remains at this point unclear whether the term ‘Moor’ was wholly national,
or if it had an ethnic referent as well. This question is best addressed to the 73
articles in which ‘Moors’ appear outside the kingdoms and ships of Morocco.48
These ‘Moors’ fall into two main categories. Firstly, there are those who
lived in major Regency cities, and/or served in their armies or navies. They
are found on Regency eet lists (‘the Golden Pearl, Captain Ali, Moor’) or
when ships are captured by Europeans (‘the 8th instant arrived a Spanish
man of War of 36 Guns, bringing in with him a man of War of Algiers of 19
Guns, several Mortar-pieces, with above 80 Moors, 14 Christians, and two
Renegadoes’).49 They appear in extreme circumstances, such as in 1660, when
46 See e.g. Continuation of our Weekly News, 21 August 1623; LG, 24-27 August 1668, 17-21
December 1668, 5-8 April 1669, 10-13 May 1669, 9-13 December 1669, 10-14 February 1670, 23-
27 December 1675, 2-5 December 1678, 10-13 May 1680; True Protestant (Domestic) Intelligence,
14 May 1680; Current Intelligence, 7-10 May 1681; True Protestant Mercury, 21-24 December 1681;
Loyal Protestant, and True Domestic Intelligence, 1 June 1682. Two possible exceptions, in which
Moroccans are possibly called Turks, are found in Newes, 29 October 1663; Loyal Protestant, 23
May 1682.
47 See e.g. LG, 3-7 December 1668, 10-14 February 1670, 2-5 December 1672, 27-30 January 1679;
Impartial London Intelligence, 7-11 April 1681; Flying Post, 23-26 November 1695; Protestant
Mercury, 23-28 July 1697; Post Man, 4-7 June 1698; London Post with Intelligence, 22-25 September
1699; Post Boy, 23-26 December 1699. One possible exception is the 1676 Anglo-Tripolitan
treaty, which refers to Englishmen being permitted to ‘turn Moor’, see LG, 13-17 April 1676.
48 This gure excludes references to Moors in and around Oran, discussed below, and a
handful of solely Portuguese-sourced references to Moors from Angola and Oman.
49 Newes, 20 April 1665; LG, 27-30 July 1668. See also, among others, Kingdomes Intelligencer,
6-13 June 1663; LG, 7-11 October 1669, 25-29 November 1669, 31 March-4 April 1670, 30
January-2 February 1671, 15-18 December 1673, 23-27 September 1675, 23-27 March 1676, 22-25
September 1679, 29 March-2 April 1683, 30 June-3 July 1684, 18-22 February 1692, 27-30 August
1694; True Protestant (Domestic) Intelligence, 14 May 1680; True Protestant Mercury, 25-29 January
1681; Universal Intelligence, 11-18 May 1681; Impartial Protestant Mercury, 2-8 November 1681;
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‘the King of Algiers was stabbed by a Moor, who came to kiss his hands’,
or the 1676 Anglo-Tripolitan treaty which required that ‘if an Englishman in
Tripoli strike, wound or kill a Turk or Moor, he shall not be punished with
greater severity than a Turk’; and also in times of peace, like in 1665 when an
English ship departed from Tunis with ‘Moors and English Commodities for
Algiers’, and in 1698 when the Algerian government sent a ship of Moors to
Paris ‘to notify the King that their new Dey … is installed according to ancient
Custom’.50 These ‘Moors’ are accurately depicted as important but (given the
Turkish dominance) second-class subjects of the Regencies. For example, in
1681, the Algerians declared war on the French because ‘the French have not
released the Moors that are Slaves on board their Galleys’, and after the French
released them, the Tunisians contrived to follow suit, demanding ‘the liberty
of the Moors, belonging to that City, that are slaves in the French Galleys
to make this a pretence to break with us’. But in 1689 the Franco-Algerian
Treaty named a ransom price of 150 pieces of eight for enslaved Algerian
Turks, but just 100 for their Moors.51 These Ottoman Moors were not conned
to the North African Regencies: in 1686, a Moor reportedly made it all the way
to Budapest in the Ottoman military, escaping capture at the hands of Holy
Roman Imperial forces by swimming away down the Danube.52 However,
since the ships, armies and ports of Ottoman North Africa were notoriously
multi-ethnic, this Moorish presence may simply indicate that Moroccans had
travelled and taken up positions in new lands, not that the term ‘Moor’ refers
to the continuing Maghreb-Arab majority ruled by the Ottomans.
More interesting, then, for the purpose of this paper, is the second category:
‘Moors’ apparently permanently resident in the Regencies, and dominant
outside of the major cities. For example, in 1664, the French hoped to capture a
city in the eastern territories of Algiers. First they aimed at Bugia (Béjaïa), ‘but
nding that besides the strength of the Place, they [the Algerians] had upon
some intelligence poured in great numbers of Moors’, they sailed further east
to Gigery (Jijel), where ‘the Moors entertained them with several Skirmishes’,
before they were overcome. Over the following months the Moors lost ‘near
a thousand men’ in attempts to retake the city, until they were reinforced in
October with ‘the forces of Algiers, and of Constantine’ to a total of ‘14000 men,
Post Man, 15-17 February 1698.
50 Mercurius Publicus, 27 December 1660-3 January 1661; Flying Post, 13-15 August 1695; Newes,
27 April 1665; Post Man, 20-22 October 1698.
51 LG, 3-7 November 1681, 14-17 November 1681, 12-15 December 1681, 9-12 January 1682, 16-
19 December 1689.
52 LG, 13-15 September 1686.
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that is to say, 6000 Turks and 8000 Moors’.53 Jijel was controlled throughout
the Ottoman period by Maghrebi-Arabs from the clan of Bin Habyles, so it is
unsurprising that no Turks were mentioned until reinforcements arrived from
major Turkish-dominated cities.54 These ‘Moors’ were, in reality and for news
readers, the traditional and continuing rulers of the land. Similarly, in 1668, the
government of Tripoli was unable to provide as many ships as requested for
the Ottoman Fleet, because they ‘had been diverted by the Moors, who have
lately made a severe war upon them, and by their frequent inroads, destroyed
a considerable part of the Country within their Dominions’.55 In February 1669,
the French Consul at Tunis was accused by the Tripolitans of
holding a private correspondency with the Moors about Tripoli, inviting
them to make war upon Tunis, and persuading them that the French
would … assist them with a strong Fleet; which so incensed them [the
Tripolitans], that after they had dragged him about the Streets, and
broken the bones of his Legs, Thighs, and Arms, they burnt him yet
alive [alongside] a Moor whom they had seized and charged with the
carrying of letters to this eect.56
Despite this, the civil war continued, for in April 1669 it was reported that
Tripoli had dispatched a large
Army against the Moors, and were raising a Fort [to] serve as a
Bridle to restrain their incursions; to which end they employed great
numbers of men [including] all the Christian slaves some of their
parties being sent out, had taken prisoner a Moor, said to be an eminent
Commander amongst the Moors.57
In 1673, the ‘Moors in the Country’ around Tripoli were once again ‘up in
Arms, and threatened new Revolutions in that Government’; and in 1698 and
1699 the Tripolitans and Tunisians both faced internecine conict between the
‘Moors, that inhabit the Mountains’, ‘those that dwell in the Plain’ and ‘the
Moors of the Flat Country’.58 These Moors were powerful groups that evidently
controlled recognised territory under Regency authority. If ‘Turk’ and ‘Moor’
were simply national categories, these Moors should never have appeared
outside of Morocco. It is for this reason that I argue ‘Moor’ is a deliberately
53 Newes, 18 August 1664, 3 November 1664, 10 November 1664.
54 Morsy, North Africa, 43.
55 LG, 18-22 June 1668.
56 LG, 22-25 March 1669.
57 LG, 5-8 April 1669. See also LG, 2-5 August 1669.
58 LG, 29 September-2 October 1673; Flying Post, 17-20 September 1698; Post Boy, 17-20
September 1698; Flying Post, 27-29 September 1698; Post Boy, 29 June-1 July 1699.
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ethnic as well as national term, referring to the continuing Maghrebi-Arab
majority of North Africa, both under the Ottoman Turks and under their own
authority in Morocco.59
The accuracy of distinctions between ‘Turks’ and ‘Moors’, however, only
persisted so far. On the borderlands of Ottoman and Moroccan territory,
ethnicity and nationality became dicult to disentangle, revealing the limits
of news writers’ ability to accurately convey North African categories. An
instructive case study is the coverage of several sieges of Oran, a Spanish
enclave in Algerian territory near the border with Morocco. In 1675, a Turkish-
controlled Algerian army marched out against Moroccan ‘Moors’ and ‘Arabs’
attacking the border city of Tlemcen, but wound up convincing them to join
together in a holy war against ‘the Spaniards of Oran’ who were ‘assisted
with 6000 Moors, who are in their pay.’ The occupants of Oran ‘at rst put
the Turks into great disorder, but were at last driven back’. While this, at rst
glance, aligns with the practice described above of describing military forces
by the nationality of the leaders (rst Moors and Turks separately, then Turks
commanding the whole), in another item in the same London Gazette issue,
the same attack is described undertaken by ‘the Moors’.60 In 1677, rumours
circulated of Oran ‘being closely besieged by the Moors.’ It was reported that
‘some Algerian Men of War happening to Cruise before the place … and the
Governor having at the same time notice that Baba Hassan [Bey of Algiers]
was abroad with a considerable Army, gave occasion to their apprehensions
of being besieged’.61 In 1695, the Algerians abandoned a joint siege with the
Emperor of Morocco, which had been collectively described as Moorish, when
a revolt saw their Dey and twenty other leaders executed for collaborating with
this enemy ruler.62 The siege was left to ‘Moors, who are Subjects to the King
of Morocco’ ghting against ‘the Moors under the Government of Spain’.63 On
several other occasions, the Moors attacking Oran are not identied with any
national jurisdiction. Even excluding all references in which the nationality of
‘Moors’ and ‘Turks’ is unclear, there is evidence of news writers recognising
the continued existence of groups under the Ottomans similar enough to the
Moroccans to be referred to by the same word.
59 Pennell writes (Morocco, 1) that by the eighteenth century in English minds ‘Moors were the
urban inhabitants of all north-western Africa, and sometimes all Muslims’.
60 LG, 22-26 July 1675.
61 LG, 23-27 July 1677.
62 Post Boy, 14-17 September 1695.
63 Post Boy, 23-26 December 1699.
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The terms ‘Arab’, ‘Negro’ and ‘Renegade’ appear much less frequently than
‘Turk’ and ‘Moorin relation to North Africa, but such usage as persists is
enough to derive denitions consistent with reality. ‘Negroes’ are described
as slaves and sailors aboard European ships, as foot soldiers in the army at
Tangier, and as sailors aboard North African ships, but most frequently as
‘Muley Ismail’s Guard of Negroes,’ the Moroccan Sultan’s crack army of West
African slaves, bought from across the Sahara and answerable to him alone,
which numbered over 150,000 by his death in 1727.64 From these uses we can
infer that the news press uses the broadly standard denition of ‘Negro’ in
English-language discourse, a black-skinned sub-Saharan African. ‘Renegade’
also had a reasonably standard usage, describing European-born converts to
Islam who had settled in North Africa, often employed as soldiers or sailors to
exploit their sought-after expertise in navigation, siege warfare and munitions.65
‘Arab’ is more ambiguous. ‘Turks, Moors, Arabians and Tangerines’ are
instructed after English negotiations with the Divan (ruling council) of Algiers
to ‘bring in all such Slaves as had been subject to his Majesty of Great Britain’.66
Arabians serve the Rian warlord Khadir Ghaylan during his rule over
northern Morocco, join in the Algerian siege of Oran after a call to holy war in
defence of Islam, invade Morocco, ‘being thereto incited, as ’tis supposed, by
the Turk’, and appear as ‘Arabic Adventurers’ in the mountains of Algeria.67
References to the Arabic language appear occasionally, but only in reference to
Turks and Moors, suggesting that ‘Arab’ peoples (at least in North Africa) are
not synonymous with speakers of the Arabic language. If Moors are dened as
argued above, perhaps these Arabs are the nomadic Berber and Bedouin tribes
that are known to have dominated the hinterland mountains and deserts of
North Africa.68 While these references are not sucient to demonstrate that a
unique and robust denition of Arab, Negro, or Renegade in North Africa was
available to English readers through the news alone, it is further evidence that
64 LG, 5-8 April 1669; Haarlem Courant Truly Rendered Into English, 17 January 1680; LG, 14-17
November 1687; LG, 5-9 January 1682; LG, 9-13 September 1675; LG, 4-7 April 1681, 8-11 June
1696; Post Boy, 27-29 August 1696; Flying Post, 30 July-2 August 1698. See Abun-Nasr, History of
the Maghrib, 230-31, 234-37; Pennell, Morocco, 99-100.
65 See e.g. LG, 30 November-3 December 1668, 29 August-1 September 1670, 14-17 November
1670, 4-8 May 1671, 22-25 September 1673, 7-11 December 1676, 8-12 November 1677, 22-25
September 1679, 4-8 March 1680, 13-17 December 1683; Impartial London Intelligence, 12 May
1681; Loyal Protestant, and True Domestic Intelligence, 5 January 1682; Post Boy, 5-7 September
1695; Flying Post, 4-7 June 1698.
66 Kingdomes Intelligencer, 12-19 January 1663.
67 LG, 8-11 April 1667; LG, 22-26 July 1675, 2-5 August 1675; Loyal Impartial Mercury, 25-29
August 1682; Loyal Impartial Mercury, 25-29 August 1682.
68 This usage is identied in rst-hand accounts in Matar, Britain and Barbary, 3.
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ethnic distinctions were recognised among North African Muslims, and that
their presentation in the news was broadly consistent with reality.
goverNmeNts, territories ANd sovereigNty
In the above section, I have suggested above that ‘Moor’ and ‘Turk’ were both
ethnic and national terms, which specically designated particular ethnic
groups when appropriate or characterised entities by the dominant ethnic group
in the state to which they belonged; and that ‘Arab’, ‘Negro’ and ‘Renegade’
are also broadly ethnic categories (at least in opposition with other Muslim
groups). As noted above, in hundreds of cases, these terms are qualied by
or contrasted with national terms. It is upon these I now wish to focus. These
national terms in the press were not generic or arbitrary, but were linked with
specic and distinctive national features, providing English readers with an
additional layer of distinction alongside the ethno-national terms described
above. These distinctions present in at least four dierent ways.
Firstly, nations are described as distinct sovereign states with recognised
borders. This can be seen in how sub-national territories within North African
states (themselves often called ‘Kingdoms’) are frequently named and correctly
allocated. Each of the kingdoms of Morocco, Fez, Talalt and Sus appear as
such, and when Muley Ismail completed his conquests, it was reported that
he had ‘brought the whole Empire of Morocco under his obedience, having
defeated all those that opposed him; so that there is at present none remaining
to disturb his new acquired Sovereignty.’69 Numerous non-capital cities and
territories, including Béjaïa, Bizerte, Jijel, Porto Farina, and Annaba, and the
European presidios in Larache, Mazagan (El Jadida), Penon de Velez, Tangier,
Ceuta, Melilla, and (sometimes) Oran, are accurately described in relation to
the North African jurisdiction that controls or surrounds them.70
Secondly, idiosyncratic political institutions are to a signicant extent
accurately described. The complex and distinctive relationships between the
oces of Dey, Bey, Pasha, Agha and Divan in each of the Ottoman Regencies
are implicitly acknowledged in the ways events are reported, if not probed
or explained in extensive detail. The Divan or city assembly of Algiers was
69 See e.g. LG, 14-17 September 1668, 19-23 November 1668, 10-14 August 1671, 21-24 October
1672, 7-11 November 1672, 9-12 March 1674, 21-25 July 1687. See Abun-Nasr, History of the
Maghrib, 228-29.
70 See e.g. Continuation of our Weekly News, 21 August 1623; Intelligencer, 27 June 1664; LG, 11-14
October 1669, 8-12 June 1671, 12-15 April 1675, 21-25 July 1687, 18-22 February 1692; Flying
Post, 17-19 November 1696.
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headed by Ottoman-appointed Pashas, or governors, until 1659, by military
commander Aghas from 1659-71, and by Deys from 1671-1711.71 Accordingly,
the English news press refers to Pasha and Divan ruling in 1652, English
ocials negotiating with Aghas in 1663, but from 1668 onwards increasingly
speaks of the Dey (or King) and Divan of Algiers, with the Pasha and Aghas
marginalised.72 In Tunisia, by contrast, Pashas operated from 1591 as wholly
nominal Ottoman supervisors while the Deys ruled, but Deys increasingly
came to dominate only the capital, while Beys took control over the countryside,
taxation and foreign trade, raising their prole until they took complete control
in 1705.73 Newspapers speak of the Dey and Pasha in most aairs until 1678,
when Beys begin to revolt, clearly controlling the countryside and exercising
political authority, as well as allying with neighbouring powers, though the
Dey continued to correspond with Europeans. In 1695, it was reported that
the Beys had captured Tunis, and Deys and Pashas thereafter disappear in the
English coverage.74 The divergent patterns of governmental control in North
Africa, despite confusingly similar terminology, are broadly accurate and
certainly distinct.
Thirdly, English newspapers repeatedly recognise that each of the four major
states in North Africa had separate and distinct relations with their Ottoman
and European neighbours. Each government is recorded as separately
negotiating treaties, settlements and ransoms with European countries on
numerous occasions – Algiers in at least fty-ve articles, Tunis twenty, Tripoli
thirty, and Morocco forty-ve. England was in all-out war with Algiers in
1669-72, but simultaneously traded peacefully with Tunis and Tripoli.75 In
1696, all three major non-government newspapers ran the same account of
French diplomatic negotiations in Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli as the rst story in
their papers, making it near-impossible for readers to escape that each country
negotiated for itself.76 The Regencies in the 1660s appear to be controlled
71 Abun-Nasr, History of the Maghrib, 159-60.
72 See e.g. Several Proceedings in Parliament, 19-26 February 1652; Kingdomes Intelligencer, 12-19
January 1663; LG, 16-20 November 1671, 12-15 August 1672, 28 June-1 July 1686, 5-8 September
1687; Impartial Protestant Mercury, 22-25 November 1681; Post Boy, 14-17 September 1695, 16-19
November 1695, 30 July-1 August 1696, 5-7 October 1699.
73 Abun-Nasr, History of the Maghrib, 170-74.
74 The Surprisal of Two Imperial Towns, 19 July 1622; Aairs of the World, 16 June 1623; Moderate
Intelligencer, 5-12 November 1646; Newes, 29 October 1663; LG, 19-22 April 1669, 28 July-1
August 1670, 27 February-2 March 1671, 23-27 March 1676, 21-25 August 1684, 29 October-2
November 1685, 19-23 November 1685, 16-19 January 1688, 3-7 October 1695; Impartial
Protestant Mercury, 7-10 February 1682.
75 See LG, 28 October-1 November 1669, 22-25 November 1669.
76 Flying Post, 13-15 October 1696; Post Boy, 13-15 October 1696; Post Man, 13-15 October 1696.
See also LG, 7-11 April 1670, 21-24 October 1672, 30 November-4 December 1682, 27-31 May
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closely from the Ottoman Porte, which handed down governors, diplomatic
treaties, and demands for military assistance, but from the 1670s increasingly
to the end of the century Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli are all recognised to be
functionally autonomous.77 The Regencies frequently are depicted as denying
Ottoman requests for ships to join the navy in the wars with Venice, even as
the ships are variously distinguished from and subsumed under the ‘Turkish’
banner when they are sent.78
Finally, English newspapers frequently refer to wars between dierent
North African states, and internecine conicts within them, in ways that
present clear national distinctions. A key example is the struggle between
brothers Muhammad and Ali, Beys of Tunisia, and various Deys and Pashas
of Tunis (including several of their uncles). The English press consistently
and accurately represented the familial nature of the conict, the shifting
involvement of Algerian and Tripolitan forces, and the particular dominance
of the Dey and Pasha over the City of Tunis. They also emphasised certain
key events in the conict, including the invasions by Algiers in 1685-86 and
1694-95, the siege and sacking of Tunis in 1686 and 1695, and the subsequent
falling-out between the Beys and Algiers in 1695 leading to a short three-sided
war before a revolution in Algiers ended their involvement.79 ‘We have advice’
reported the Gazette,
that the two Brothers Beys … have at last taken the City of Tunis. The
Succours they had received from Algiers, put them into a condition
to press the Siege very viciously the Besieged were forced to great
Extremities, being shut up as well by Sea as Land; And there were
besides great Divisions among the principal Commanders of the
Militia, which were increased, by the secret Intelligence the Beys had
within the place. Several Proposals of an Accommodation had been
made, which the Dey would not hearken to; At last the Militia and the
chief of the Divan being wearied with the length of the Siege, pressed
him to yield, which he refusing, they secretly treated with the Beys,
1686, 14-17 November 1687; Current Intelligence, 29 October-1 November 1681.
77 Newes, 29 October 1663; LG, 18-22 June 1668; LG, 23-27 March 1676; LG, 13-17 July 1678; LG,
28 June-1 July 1686.
78 See for example Moderate Intelligencer, 15-22 April 1647; Perfect Diurnall, 27 June-4 July 1653;
LG, 23-27 July 1668; 6-10 July 1671; 24-26 October 1672; 30 March-2 April 1685; 24-27 August
79 LG, 21-25 August 1684, 29 October-2 November 1685, 19-23 November 1685, 7-10 December
1685, 1-5 April 1686, 28 June-1 July 1686, 8-12 July 1686, 16-19 August 1686, 27-30 August 1694,
13-17 September 1694, 13-17 June 1695, 8-12 August 1695, 3-7 October 1695; Post Boy, 11-13 June
1695, 16-19 November 1695.
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and opened the Gates to them, who then became Masters of the Town
without any loss.80
The detailed and accurate reporting of this conict, and several others like it,
provided for English readers a clear awareness of North African internal and
international political and military conicts.
religioN ANd piety
Distinctively North African religious beliefs and practices, as distinct from
more general Islamic piety, were rarely reported in the English press. Those
few items that are available should not be given primary signicance, however
several interesting examples deserve attention. It is known, for example, that
Moroccans in the seventeenth century had a high regard for the wisdom and
leadership of mystic holy men, many of whom led rebellions against the
Sultan.81 Accordingly, we repeatedly nd ‘Marabouts’, ‘Saints’, ‘Mahallis’,
‘Dervishes’, and ‘Muhammadan Priests’ as highly-respected religious leaders
and revolutionaries among Moroccans, who are exploited by military leaders
to forge unity. We also nd Moroccan warlord Ghaylan consulting ‘Savios’
and ‘Rabbins’ about Islamic law regarding holy war against Christians before
attacking Tangier.82 There are examples of specically Moroccan religious
requirements, including travelling only during daylight and praying in
darkness, not travelling during fasts, allowing Cooks and Muftis to drink
wine while all others abstained, and idiosyncratic fasting practices during
Ramadan.83 Finally, there is evidence of conicting interpretations of Islamic
law, in a 1667 dispute between Algiers and Tunis over a captured ship:
those of Algiers having in the name of their Divan [demanded]
restoration, the Goods belonging formerly to Muslims of that place,
and by their Law to be returned to them; which the other refuse,
oering only half satisfaction, insisting upon [precedent].84
These examples indicate that some information was available to English
readers suggesting that the Islam of North Africa itself was not monolithic, let
alone the ethnic and national groups who believed in it.
80 LG, 8-12 July 1686.
81 Pennell, Morocco, 89-90; Naylor, North Africa, 124-31.
82 Moderate Intelligencer, 6-13 May 1647; Intelligencer, 11 April 1664; Oxford Gazette, 21-25
December 1665; Current Intelligence, 16-19 July 1666; LG, 22-26 July 1675, 5-8 September 1692;
Post Man, 30 August-1 September 1698.
83 Loyal Protestant, and True Domestic Intelligence, 5 January 1682; LG, 9-13 November 1682; Post
Boy, 2-4 March 1699.
84 LG, 26-30 September 1667, 5-9 December 1667.
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coNclusioN ANd future reseArch
I have shown in this paper that the English periodical news press provided a
diverse group of readers before 1700 with a vast quantity of reliable and up-
to-date information about North Africa and its people. News writers made
surprisingly clear distinctions between dierent groups of Muslims, using
ethno-national terms like ‘Turk’ and ‘Moor’ as well as national and sub-
national designations, each of which had accurate and precise meanings to
their readers. However, this is by no means the only information presented
by these publications to the news-reading public. As we have seen already,
news items frequently concerned the dramatic aairs of diplomacy, captivity
and warfare, providing readers with up-to-date information on Algerian naval
attacks, sieges on Tangier and the other European settlements, and the progress
of treaty negotiations. Though the news press focuses on these conventionally
newsworthy stories, reports frequently appear of quiet, peaceful and protable
trade with North Africa, that gave readers – both those who were nancially or
professionally invested, and those who were not – a more accurate sense of the
nuanced military threat and economic opportunities North Africa embodied.
I hope to undertake a deeper examination of these sources to indicate the
extent to which peace treaties and capitulations were observed, the potential
of which can be illustrated by the following. In 1669, six years after the English
last made peace with Algiers, a ship arrived in Yarmouth reporting,
that o the North Cape they met with an Algiers man of War of 36
Guns, who sent their boat aboard them, and made a strict search,
but that the Master of this ship and the Merchant going aboard the
Turks man of War were civilly Treated, and oered a supply of any
necessaries they could furnish them with, excusing the strictness of the
search upon several abuses put upon them by such of their Enemies as
had pretended their ships and goods to have been English.85
Numerous examples attest to ships travelling back and forth to North Africa,
and being ‘most civilly treated’ in their encounters with North Africans. In
1696, the famous business periodical Collection for the Improvement of Husbandry
and Trade devoted an entire page to explaining why trade with North Africa
should become a priority: being ‘one of the fruitfullest Countries in the World’,
where ‘if we should get all the Trade that a Probability may be shown for; we
should out-do all our Neighbours’.86 While the average British reader likely
85 LG, 29 March-1 April, 1669. See also LG, 6-9 April 1668; 31 August-3 September 1668; 3-7
June 1669; 22-25 January 1672; 20 August-2 September 1675; Post Man, 12-14 January 1697.
86 Collection for the Improvement of Husbandry and Trade, 21 February 1696.
100 Articles 46 v02.indd 82 10/5/19 3:50 pm
retained a great deal of misinformation, supposition, and assumption, it is clear
that periodical news writers provided to their readers a vast and surprising
quantity of reliable and up-to-date information about North Africa and its
people. We should expect, at the very least, that literate urbanites understood
that North Africa was not a monolithically threatening and undierentiated
place. A future study may also fruitfully investigate the original diplomatic or
mercantile sources of news, the channels by which this news was transmitted
to England, editorial policies exercised by the secretaries of state and news
writers on their sources, and the ways in which captives, merchants, consuls
and military ocials responded to these reports and tropes when they
encountered North African in person. This would oer a further fascinating
insight into the inuence news exercised on British-North African relations in
the seventeenth century.
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tABle 1: cAtegories used to descriBe iNdividuAls,
groups or ships iN/from North AfricA
Term Articles employing term
Turk… 408
Moor… 524
Arab… 8
Negro… 11
Renegade/Renegado… 52
Total using TMANR 885
National/sub-national descriptions 990
tABle 2: ANAlysis of terms
Term Articles employing term
Uses of multiple TMANR 127
Uses of TMANR and national descriptions 370
Uses of TMANR without national
Use of national descriptions without
Uses of Turk without MANR or national
Moors outside Morocco (excluding
ambiguous references to Oran, and
invading Moroccan armies)
References to political oces, institutions,
sovereignty or autonomy
100 Articles 46 v02.indd 84 10/5/19 3:50 pm
Full-text available
Commonly represented in contemporary texts and modern historiographical accounts as a dangerous and alien region, characterised by piracy and barbarism, the history of the early modern Maghreb and the cultural impact it had on British society is one highly limited by indirect sources, cultural, political, and religious biases, and the distorting influence of Orientalist and colonial historiography. Historians have drawn on a wide range of popular media and government-held archival material, each with its own limitations, but one important corpus has been neglected. Drawn from up-to-date and trusted sources and distributed to vast audiences from a wide range of social groups, periodical news publications provide a vast and fruitful body of sources for evaluating popular and elite English viewpoints on Maghrebi piracy. This paper draws upon a corpus of 3385 news items comprising over 360,000 words relating to the Maghreb and its people, drawn from Stuart and Republican English news publications, with a view towards examining the discourse and reality around Maghrebi maritime combat, diplomact and trade in seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century England. To what extent did maritime combat dominate coverage of the Maghreb, over other social, political and military events? Why did news writers use the word ‘pirate’ so infrequently to describe Maghrebi ships? Was Maghrebi piracy chaotic and unfettered, or did peace treaties and consular presence lead to stable trade relations? Were Maghrebi economies seen to be fundamentally built on naval predation, or was real benefit available from peaceful engagement with the Maghrebi states? Examining these and other questions from English news coverage, this paper argues that the material in English periodical news is generally consistent with what we know of the military, diplomatic and economic conditions of the time, surprisingly neutral in tone with a possible emphasis on positive stories when dealing with British–Maghrebi relations, and increasingly after the Restoration played a significant role in influencing British popular discourse.
References to political offices, institutions, sovereignty or autonomy
  • Lg
LG, 26-30 September 1667, 5-9 December 1667. References to political offices, institutions, sovereignty or autonomy