The term refers to pirates or privateers who operated in the Mediterranean. The most recognized corsairs were from the Barbary Coast of North Africa (European crusaders named their Muslim enemies “Barbary Corsairs”).
These corsairs were authorized by their governments to prey upon the shipping lanes of Christian countries. The Maltese Corsairs led the fight against the Turks, being led by the Knights of St. John. The Maltese Corsairs initially fought for religion, but after a while the rewards of piracy grew to greater appeal. Soon the Maltese Corsairs were full-fledged pirates, with no interest in religious ideals.