Joseph Pitts (1663–?1735) was a merchant seaman from Topsham, Devon. In 1678 he was captured off the coast of Spain by corsairs from the Regency of Algiers, and was in captivity until 1693. The Barbary states, on the north coast of Africa, were part of the Islamic Ottoman empire and posed a threat to British aspirations to wrest control from France and Spain in the strategically vital Mediterranean. However, the British empire’s outposts in Gibraltar and Minorca were also dependent upon the Barbary states for supplies: as a result, the British were reluctant to go to war and instead ransomed and bargained (sometimes offering weapons) for the return of Barbary captives. Barbary corsairs plagued merchant shipping, stealing cargoes and enslaving the crews, and were a potent symbol, reminding all that Britons could indeed be slaves.
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- Joseph Pitts, from A True and Faithful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mohammetans… With an Account of the Author’s being taken Captive, and of his Escape (1704)
Stephen H. Gregg
- Macmillan Education UK
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