Thursday, April 10, 2008

European Pirates in the Ottoman Navy [1]: Jan Janszoon

If you were someone who was living by the shores of Italy, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Ireland, Iceland or in other Mediterranean islands between 15th and 18th century, you would had to worry. You'd better had to worry about the Corsair Raids to the shores, which always pop up instantaneously and enslave everyone in sight in a very short time. You could be enslaved and end up in the Barbary States.

I am talking about the Barbary Pirates who ravaged Mare Nostrum for centuries. They were very capable seamen, equally ruthless and cosmopolitan in both religion and race. Barbary Coast was a magnet for the people who wanted to become a pirate to have a fortune in a short time, go for an adventure or take revenge from the Spanish and the Italian. The revenger were mostly Moors and Jews, who were expelled from their lands with the ReConquisita of Spain. In this series, I will investigate individuals who were born as Christians out of the Ottoman Soil. Being have born in Ottoman Soil or not makes a big difference. If you were not, your way which leaded you to North Africa was probably different than an Ottoman Citizen's; Slavery.

If you know Dutch history a bit, that means you know how much do the Dutch involved in Seamanship. Being squeezed by the English, French, German and Spanish; Dutch people looked for their fortunes in distant shores. In their golden age, they built a very big trade fleet consisting of hundreds of ships which were carrying goods from all over and around the World. They were brave adventurers who were looking for making a fortune in the shortest time. Jan Janszoon was one of them. A perfect fit for an adventurer profile of his time.

Jan Janszoon was born in Haarlem, in the Netherlands. In his youth he attacked Spanish trade ships as a privateer. Apparently, he could not make so much money there. So he moved to Barbary Coast.

While he was active in the Barbary Coast, he flew the Dutch flag when he was attacking to Spanish ships, and he flew the Turkish Flag when he was attacking other ships. Yet he had been caught by the Barbary Pirates in the Canary Islands in 1618. And well, the usual story: he was enslaved.

If you were pursuing a career in the Barbary Coast in those days, you had to have some qualifications. Jan was well aware of that. The best qualification in those days (you can compare to a MBA of today;)) were converting to Islam. Well, Jan did that and he got the name of Murat Reis the Younger. He began to raid Christian ships and lands with an another man: Suleyman Reis. Suleyman Reis was originally from the Netherlands, too. His Christian name was De Veenboer before he converted to Islam. De Veenboer (aka Suleyman Reis) was known with a trait: He was not attacking Dutch Ships; and if he had to, he never killed the Dutch crew. Because of him, the crew of Murat Reis and the crew of him were mostly consisted of Dutchmen. De Veenboer was killed by a cannonball in 1620.

Jan Janszoon went on his pirating activities. After all, it was a prosperous business. He became the admiral of the Pirate Navy. In 1622 he went to the Netherlands again, claimed diplomatic immunity as he was protected under the Turkish flag. Dutch authorities could not do anything. He collected new volunteers and set sail back.

In 1627 he raided Reykjavik, Iceland and enslaved 400 people. This event is known as "Turkish Abductions" in Iceland. In 1631, the target was Ireland. He enslaved 108 people.

After that, he got caught by the Knights of Malta and stayed in prison till 1640, until his escape. In the following year, his daughter from his first wife visited him. He died peacefully in Algiers afterwards.

And, now, when we make an overland through Afghanistan or India, we call ourselves adventurers.

We gotta think about it twice..


Anonymous said...

Have you read Peter Lamborn Wilson's "Pirate Utopias?" Excellent book on this mostly overlooked subject. Nice article also!

Ibn-i batuta said...

Thanks for the comment. Wow, I gotta congratulate for myself for being able to see this comment after a year!:)

I did not read that book but I heard about it. It's place is already reserved in my library.

Court Jester said...

An excellent article ... Sulayman Reis alias Dirkie de Veenboer happens to be my ancestor. Thanks for posting!
Frank Landsman

Ibn-i batuta said...

Thanks Court!
If you happen to investigate your ancestors and also need help with the Ottoman language while fulfilling this task, just let me know.

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