According to Robert Davis, between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates and sold as slaves in North Africa and The Ottoman Empire between the 16th and 19th centuries. However, these numbers have been challenged by other historians, such as David Earle, author of The Corsairs of Malta and Barbary and The Pirate Wars.
From bases on the Barbary coast, North Africa, the Barbary pirates raided ships traveling through the Mediterranean and along the northern and western coasts of Africa, plundering their cargo and enslaving the people they captured. From at least 1500, the pirates also conducted raids along seaside towns of Italy, Spain, France, England, the Netherlands and as far away as Iceland, capturing men, women and children. On some occasions, settlements such as Baltimore, Ireland were abandoned following the raid, only being resettled many years later. Between 1609 and 1616, England alone had 466 merchant ships lost to Barbary pirates.
Commercial ships from the United States of America were subject to pirate attacks. In 1783, the United States made peace with, and gained recognition from, the British monarchy. In 1784, the first American ship was seized by pirates from Morocco. By late 1793, a dozen American ships had been captured, goods stripped and everyone enslaved. After some serious debate, the US created the United States Navy in March 1794.
This new military presence helped to stiffen American resolve to resist the continuation of tribute payments, leading to the two Barbary Wars along the North African coast: the First Barbary War from 1801 to 1805 and the Second Barbary War in 1815. Payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary states had amounted to 20% of United States government annual revenues in 1800. It was not until 1815 that naval victories ended tribute payments by the United States. Some European nations continued annual payments until the 1830s. The white slave trade and markets in the Mediterranean declined and eventually disappeared after the European occupations. 
Because of the large numbers of Britons captured by the Barbary States and in other venues, captivity was the other side of exploration and empire Captivity narratives originated as a literary form in the seventeenth century. They were widely published and read, preceding those of colonists captured by American Indians in North America.