Imagining Islam: Early Republican Literature and the Barbary Crisis
Haverford College. Department of History
Place of Publication
Table of Contents
In 1794, the United States Congress officially authorized the creation of a national naval force and just ten years later pushed back Tripolitan soldiers on the coast of North Africa. Yet for decades prior to the First Barbary War, Americans had been terrorized by the Barbary pirates who routinely impressed and enslaved sailors before selling them back to the United States for tribute money. As the United States searched for a national image, national imaginings concentrated more and more on comparisons between North Africa and North America. As Protestant Americans felt the threat of Muslim sailors, Islam began to feature more and more in the literature of the nascent nation. In this thesis, I examine four pieces of American literature published between 1787 and 1807 directly featuring Muslim characters, and I relate the works to the United States' involvement and interactions with North African states. This essay responds to contemporary scholarship utilizing Edward Said's Orientalism and considers whether or not Said's writings can be fully applied to the time period of the Early Republic.