"Maybe we are still fighting the same War". The United States between 18th century’s corsairs and 21st century’s terrorists - The United States of America, after becoming independent from the British Crown, fought against the northern African regencies of Tripoli and Algiers - rather than pay any tribute to them - in the so-called «Barbary Wars» of 1801-1805 and 1815. Before, during, and after these conflicts we witness a noticeable production of tales, novels, and plays written by U.S. citizens, often victims and captives of the privateering activities of the three cities. These accounts of Barbary captivity played a leading role in the political debate, preparing an outraged public opinion for war; at the same time, these narratives contributed to shape the Americans’ understanding of Islamic society up to the present. The terrorist attack on New York in September 2001 has resurrected American interest in the XIX century’s «Barbary Wars», originating the assumption of a close - albeit incorrect - «analogy» between Muslim corsairs and modern-day Muslim terrorists, regarded as the foremost enemies in the present «War on Terror». This article studies this process through an analysis of scholarly sources and media-diffused texts recently published in the United States and Great Britain.
Keywords: Barbary Wars; Barbary captivity narratives; Piracy; Ship hijacking; North African History; Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America