A private ship fitted out by an owner to operate under licence by the government against the merchant shipping of an enemy. The word is particularly applicable to Mediterranean waters and is most often associated with the privateering cruisers which operated off the Barbary (Saracen) coasts of North Africa as late as 1825 and preyed on the merchant ships of Christian states. Although many people regarded their actions as piracy, corsairs were usually legitimate privateers licensed by the Turkish government at Constantinople. The word is also used to describe the men who manned these ships. See also barbary pirates.
Subjects: African Studies — Maritime History.