Andrew Berwick (synonym for Anders Breivik, who committed the Oslo massacre in 2011) writes in his manifesto "A European declaration of independence" on page 39:

Barbary pirates ravaged the coast of England up till the 1830s carting off coastal villages into slavery and at even later dates on the west coast of Ireland and Iceland. And this was at the height of the British Empire. More than 1,5 million Europeans have been enslaved since the first Jihadi invasion of Andalusia, most of which were brought to North Africa.

Is this claim true?

  • 3
    I imagine that pirates, through the ages, have killed and taken many people as slaves. The percentage of these being said to belong a particular religion (none of them were good followers, as no religion allows for killing and harming for reasons of greed) will probably be the same as the percentage of non-pirate population of that religion.
    – Ned64
    Jun 6, 2015 at 12:43
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    Were Barbary Pirates all Muslims, or did they get their crews from a variety of backgrounds?
    – GEdgar
    Sep 29, 2016 at 21:22
  • Piracy on the Mediterranean was one of the justification of colonization of North Africa by France in the early-mid 19th century. Raid on Corsica (look up the history of their flag), Sicily and so on were kept active for a long time.
    – MakorDal
    May 18, 2020 at 8:03
  • "no religion allows for killing and harming for reasons of greed" False. In fact, the Bible records God as commanding the Hebrews to kill for their own benefit. Apr 2, 2021 at 4:52

2 Answers 2


Not sure about 19th century, but there's a fairly well publicized accounts in 17th: for example the Sack of Baltimore (in Ireland) in 1631. One source: Des Ekin’s book "The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates". See also more related 17th century info here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/white_slaves_01.shtml

I have a feeling that "up to 1830s" was likely Berwick mistaking the last recorded attack on the English (or neighbouring) soil for the 1830s end of the Tripoli based piracy on the sea.

One unattributed statement I was able to find was from "The Coming Of The Corsairs" article by David Stanton on Mudeford Sandbank News website (used to reside on http://www.msbnews.co.uk/pirates06.htm and can still be viewed on Wayback Machine)

Coast raids had become less common in the 18th century (the last recorded is in 1760)

I wasn't able to find an authoritative source on the amount of slaves, the furthest I managed to dig to was the following quote from Joshua London, the author of "Victory at Tripoli" book:

Contemporary scholars estimate that over 1 million white Christians from France and Italy to Spain, Hol­land, Great Britain, the Americas, and even Iceland were captured between 1500 and 1800.

An independent mention (again without authoritrative sourcing) is from the same "The Coming Of The Corsairs" article by David Stanton mentioned above:

The July 2000 Radio 4 documentary “Turks On The Coast” put the number of captives between 1600 and 1800 at over 100,000, but a more recent estimate by an American historian has put the number of Europeans enslaved 1530-1780 at 1.25 million.

  • Great references but this doesnt really cover the 19th century as was asked about in the question. Or are you saying the answer is no?
    – Chad
    Aug 3, 2011 at 13:06
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    @chad - see the bolded "(the last recorded is in 1760)". The answer explains where the confusion likely came from.
    – user5341
    Aug 3, 2011 at 13:32
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    So you are saying no?
    – Chad
    Aug 3, 2011 at 13:42
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    The barbary pirates abduction in Iceland is pretty well documented en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrkjar%C3%A1ni%C3%B0
    – Ingó Vals
    Oct 6, 2011 at 23:44
  • Ireland: 1631 - Des Ekin "The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates"
  • Iceland: 1627 "Turkish Abductions"

Up to 1816, north African pirates regularly took European travelers and occasionally people from coastal areas as slaves, unless the countries involved paid tribute to them. Raids on Atlantic coastlines occurred, but were unusual. Although the pirates justified it in relgious terms, (jizya), the quote you cite is massively overblown, and not strictly accurate. In the 1700s, North African piracy became less common. After the 1816 Anglo-Dutch bombardment of Algiers, the practice was officially abandoned. There were still a few "freelance" incidents up to the 1830 French occupation.

Many of the pirates were European ex-Christian privateers who converted to Islam specifically to conduct this business.

A good sourcebook is: DJ Vitkus 'Piracy, Slavery and Redemption: Barbary Captivity Narratives from Early Modern England'.

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