Piracy, Law, and the Limits of the Ottoman Mediterranean

Beginning in the 1570s and continuing for roughly a century and a half, a plague of piracy gripped the eastern half of the Mediterranean. The unchecked activities of pirates and corsairs routinely affected both Ottoman and European subjects, resulting in frequent domestic and inter-state legal disputes over ships, cargo, and captives. Pirates churned up a sea of paper in their wake: letters, petitions, court documents, legal opinions, ambassadorial reports, travel accounts, captivity narratives, and vast numbers of decrees attest to their impact on lives and livelihoods throughout the Ottoman Mediterranean world. First tracing the causes of this pervasive piracy, this talk follows the Ottoman administrators, jurists, and victims who had to contend most with its consequences, which ultimately redefined the limits of the Ottoman Mediterranean.

Joshua M. White is an Assistant Professor in History at University of Virginia and a leading specialist in the history of the Ottoman Empire and piracy in the early modern Mediterranean. He is the author of Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean (Stanford University Press 2017) and a contributor to The Cambridge World History.

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