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The Problem of Piracy in the Early Modern World

Maritime Predation, Empire, and the Construction of Authority at Sea

290 pages
Amsterdam University Press
In the early modern period, both legal and illegal maritime predation was a common occurrence, but the expansion of European maritime empires exacerbated existing and created new problems of piracy across the globe. This collection of original case studies addresses these early modern problems in three sections: first, states’ attempts to exercise jurisdiction over seafarers and their actions; second, the multiple predatory marine practices considered ‘piracy’; and finally, the many representations made about piracy by states or the seafarers themselves. Across nine chapters covering regions including southeast Asia, the Atlantic archipelago, the North African states, and the Caribbean Sea, the complexities of defining and criminalizing maritime predation is explored, raising questions surrounding subjecthood, interpolity law, and the impacts of colonization on the legal and social construction of ocean, port, and coastal spaces. Seeking the meanings and motivations behind piracy, this book reveals that while European states attempted to fashion piracy into a global and homogenous phenomenon, it was largely a local and often idiosyncratic issue.
Author Bio
John Coakley is an historian of early America and the Atlantic world, focusing on maritime predation in the Caribbean. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of ‘“The Piracies of some Little Privateers’: Language, Law and Maritime Violence in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean,” Britain and the World, 13:1 (2020), 6-26. C. Nathan Kwan teaches at the Education University of Hong Kong. His research focuses on Qing China’s maritime relations with the West. He is the author of “‘Barbarian Ships sail Freely about the Seas’: Qing Reactions to the British Suppression of Piracy in South China, 1841-1856,” Asian Review of World Histories, 8 (2020): 83-102. David Wilson is lecturer in maritime history at the University of Strathclyde. His research interests include early modern piracy, maritime law, and coastal communities. He is the author of Suppressing Piracy in the Early Eighteenth Century: Pirates, Merchants, and British Imperial Authority in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans (Boydell & Brewer, Woodbridge, 2021).