A Brief History of the Ottoman Empire in Algeria

With the Regency of Algiers as its principal center, the Ottoman Empire ruled an area referred to as Ottoman Algeria in the Maghreb between 1525 and the French invasion of Algiers in 1830. The Regency of Algiers was established by Ottoman Turkish admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa in around 1525 when he captured the city of Algiers which soon became the base from which the Ottoman Empire attacked European shipping in the Mediterranean in acts of piracy. In capturing Algiers, the Ottoman Empire drove out the Hafsid and Zianid dynasties, as well as any Spanish forces in the North African region under its control.

The Spanish had considerable influence along the North African coastline from 1496 until the privateer brothers Aruj and Khair ad Din, or Barbarossa (Red Beard) made their presence known when moving their base of operations from Tunisia to Algiers which they captured in 1516. Aruj lost his life during his invasion of Tlemcen in 1518, whereupon Barbarossa became military commander of Algiers. Barbarossa made a deal with the Ottomans that in exchange for their assistance in fighting the Spanish, his dominions would be acknowledged as being under Ottoman authority. However, in 1519 the Spanish retook Algiers before Ottoman troops arrived to assist Barbarossa, who in turn recaptured the city in 1525. Barbarossa took possession of the Peñón of Algiers – the small island off the coast of Algiers under Spanish rule at the time – in 1529, where he dismantled the Spanish fortifications built on the island.

With 2,000 Turkish troops and artillery supplied by the Ottomans, Algiers became the base of military operations against Spain and Morocco. The Ottoman Empire secured their presence in the Maghreb with an administration in Algiers under appointed Pashas, or governors, with three-year terms of office. At this time the main source of revenue for the Regency of Algiers was from piracy, with Catholic shipping being the main target and the Christians captured being sold as slaves. The continued piracy on European, and later American, ships led to repeated attacks on Algiers by Spain, Denmark, France and England, with the invasion by the French in 1830 eventually bringing the Ottoman rule of Algiers to an end. The French ruled for 132 years before Algeria gained independence in 1962.