Maps and Texts of the Barbary Wars

Saturday, January 9, 2016
Galleria Exhibit Hall (Hilton Atlanta)
Abby Mullen, Northeastern University
Maps and Texts in the Barbary Wars:

A Digital Investigation of the First Tripolitan War, 1801-1805

The First Tripolitan War is famous for two events: the burning of the USS Philadelphia and the march across “the shores of Tripoli” by U.S. Marines. However, focusing on the dramatic moments of the Barbary Wars keeps scholars from understanding other important features of the conflict. In the slow and humdrum activities of a blockade, the U.S. Navy learned how to work in an international context and how to maintain a military presence far from the shores of the United States.

Four different squadrons maintained the blockade in front of Tripoli harbor over four years. Each of the commanders of the squadrons had a different strategy, some more successful than others. Each also had to maintain the peace with the European nations in the Mediterranean. Keeping these relations was, in some ways, more important than a successful conclusion to the dispute with Tripoli.

One way to understand the different strategies is to map the locations of the various ships in the squadron over the course of their stay in the Mediterranean. Mapping helps us to see the progression of the blockade as different commanders take over. It also gives us a sense of which allies the navy relied on for support.  This poster will display some of the results of mapping the blockade.

Another way to get at the strategies of the navy in the Mediterranean is to do some analysis of the writings of various members of the squadrons. Using a text analysis tool (Bookworm) that I built on the model of Benjamin Schmidt’s work, we can make some assertions about what was truly important to the navy. This poster will also display some of the results of this textual analysis. By comparing the words of the naval officers with their actual movements, we may arrive at a richer understanding of the navy’s role in the First Tripolitan War.

See more of: Poster Session #2
See more of: AHA Sessions