In the medieval period, Muslim rulers frequently hired Christian mercenary soldiers to defend their persons and bolster their armies. Nowhere was this practice more common than in North Africa, a region, then as now, linked to Europe through migration, diplomacy, and trade. From the twelfth century to the sixteenth, North African regimes of all types found it useful to recruit European fighters to their sides. Some of these mercenaries were former prisoners of war, while others were prominent political exiles. Most, though, were of humbler origin, fighting men who found a lively market for their services in the decentralized, fiercely competitive political environment of the late medieval Maghrib.