Copyright The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica. [Published by the Malta Historical Society]. 8(1982)3(264)

[p. 264] Dearden S., A Nest of Corsairs, London (Murray) 1976, pp. 331.

The sub-title of this book is "The Fighting Karamanlis of the Barbary Coast" and it aptly sums up what this book is about: the rule of the Karamanii family in Tripoli from 1711 to 1835. In 1711, Ahmed Karamanli (1711-1745) took over the reins of power in his hands by a coup and his descendant Ali was deposed by a similar Turkish coup a century and a quarter later, a son of poetic justice. In the intervening years, the Regency of Tripoli was ruled by Mohammed (1745-54), Ali (1754-95), and Yusef (1795- 1835).

On the whole, the subject - built on extensive published and less extensive unpublished material - is treated chronologically and the author gives a pleasing and very readable account of Karamanii rule which was a constant struggle against internal and external enemies, poverty, drought and disease. This dynasty had its own extravagant, princely court and an expensive army which could only be maintained on the income obtained from the plunder resulting from the War of Corsairs in the Mediterranean. Corsairing obviously brought Tripoli in conflict with the Western Maritime Powers, including Britain and France. Although Malta is not given any undue importance in this book, corsairing did bring Tripoli in conflict with our island home, as both were protagonists of the so-called Holy War in the Mediterranean. It is said that one should "know one's enemy" and, since Tripoli and Malta were enemies in the 18th century, lovers of Maltese history should take every opportunity to study the history of the peoples we were (or are) in contact with - be they friends or enemies - in order to extract a fuller appreciation and understanding of our own history. And this is precisely why I liked reading this book. Moreover, one must note that the Libyans still retain something of the closed character existing at the times of the Karamanlis - when Libya was in fact really independent for the first time - and so this book may be said to have a contemporary interest for the study of the Libyan character.

JOSEPH F. GRIMA