Between the 16th and 18th centuries thousands of Britons were taken captive by Barbary corsairs and sold into slavery. A fortunate few escaped, some were ransomed, others converted to Islam, but the majority remained enslaved on the Barbary coast for the remainder of their lives.

It is impossible to ascertain the exact number of British captives that were held in North Africa, but it has been calculated that there were more than 20,000 over the years. Britons, however, only constituted a fraction of the one million European men and women who were estimated to have been enslaved during the early modern period.