Thinking of the British and Africa, I suppose the things that comes to mind are the Quest for the Source of the Nile, Brits in East Africa and South Africa, and the exploration of the Niger. Before most of these however, there was English relations with the Barbary States, in particular Morocco.
The English Barbary Company (EBC) was established in 1585 to promote trade with the region. Traditionally in the sphere of influence of Portugal, Spain, and Genoa, England was keen to obtain sugar, saltpetre, and other goods in exchange for timber and firearms (the English trade in weaponry started early). There was also a huge rivalry between the Great Powers of England and Spain, with England keen to put Spain’s nose out of joint.
During the hundred years that followed the establishment of the EBC, England, Morocco and Spain were in a constant state of shifting alliances and war. England gained the important city of Tangier in 1661 and ruled it for the next twenty-five years.
From this era, we offer The Present State of Tangier (1676), by George Philips, secretary to the Governor, George O’Brien. This scarce work is really a piece of propaganda, emphasising the plentiful supplies of the city during a time of Spanish embargo. A charming unpressed copy in a simple contemporary binding.
Diplomatic relations between Britain and Morocco were not established until the Windus Embassy of 1720, which resulted in the freeing of almost 300 British slaves. This Embassy was one of the most important events in British-Moroccan history and we have a first-hand account in the form of A Journey to Mequinez (1726), by John Windus.
An ever-present force in the region were the Barbary Pirates who preyed on Mediterranean traffic that came too close to shore. The great Nile explorer, James Bruce, began his career abroad as British Consul in Algiers in 1763. He had a personal interest in exploring the region but his official duties took up his time.
We have a letter dated June 1st 1763, from Bruce detailing the steps he was taking to prevent attacks on British property by the Pirates. This offers a rare opportunity to obtain a significant autograph letter by Bruce.