The term Barbary Coast emphasizes the Berber coastal regions and cities throughout the middle and western coastal regions of North Africa – what is now modern nations of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. The English term "Barbary" (and its European varieties: Barbaria, Berbérie, etc.) referred mainly to the entire Berber lands including non-coastal regions, deep into the African continent, as seen in European geographical and political maps published during the 17th–20th centuries.
The name derives from the Berber people of North Africa. In the West, the name commonly evoked the Barbary pirates and Barbary slave traders based on that coast—who attacked ships and coastal settlements in the Mediterranean Sea and eastern North Atlantic Ocean, and captured and traded slaves or goods from Europe, America and sub-Saharan Africa. These actions finally provoked the Barbary Wars of the early 19th century. The slaves and goods were being traded and sold throughout the Ottoman Empire or to the Europeans themselves.
Barbary was not always a unified political entity. From the 16th century onwards, it was divided into the political entities of the Regency of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripolitania (Tripoli). Major rulers petty monarchs during the times of the Barbary states' plundering parties included the Pasha or Dey of Algiers, the Bey of Tunis and the Bey of Tripoli.
Before then, the territory was usually divided between Ifriqiya, Morocco, and a west-central Algerian state centered on Tlemcen or Tiaret. Powerful Berber dynasties such as the Almohads (12th century) and briefly thereafter the Hafsids, occasionally unified it for short periods. From a European perspective, Tripoli in modern-day Libya, was considered its capital or chief city—though Marrakesh in Morocco was the largest and most important Berber city at the time. Some saw Algiers in Algeria, or Tangiers in Morocco as the capital.
The first United States military land action overseas, executed by the U.S. Marines and Navy, was the Battle of Derna, Tripoli, (a coastal town in modern eastern Libya) in April 1805. It formed part of an effort to destroy all of the Barbary pirates, to free American slaves in captivity, and to put an end to piracy acts between these warring tribes on the part of the Barbary states, which were themselves member states of the Ottoman Empire. The opening line of the Marines' Hymn refers to this action: "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli...". This was the first time the United States Marine Corps took part in offensive actions outside of the United States.
- Maps of Barbary Archived October 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- Carver, Robert (25 April 2009). "Not so easy alliances: Two Faiths, One Banner: when Muslims marched with Christians across Europe's battlegrounds (book review)". The Tablet. p. 24.
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Barbary Pirates". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 383–384.
- London, Joshua E. (2005), Victory in Tripoli: How America's War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., ISBN 0-471-44415-4
- LAFI (Nora), Une ville du Tamazgha entre ancien régime et réformes ottomanes. Genèse des institutions municipales à Tripoli de Barbarie (1795–1911), Paris: L'Harmattan, 2002, p. 305