Mark G. Hanna - Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740

Friday, April 1, 2016 - 6:00pm

Analyzing the rise and subsequent fall of international piracy from the perspective of colonial hinterlands, Mark G. Hanna explores the often overt support of sea marauders in maritime communities from the inception of England's burgeoning empire in the 1570s to its administrative consolidation by the 1740s. Although traditionally depicted as swashbuckling adventurers on the high seas, pirates played a crucial role on land. Far from a hindrance to trade, their enterprises contributed to commercial development and to the economic infrastructure of port towns.

English piracy and unregulated privateering flourished in the Pacific, the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean because of merchant elites' active support in the North American colonies. Sea marauders represented a real as well as a symbolic challenge to legal and commercial policies formulated by distant and ineffectual administrative bodies that undermined the financial prosperity and defense of the colonies. Departing from previous understandings of deep-sea marauding, this study reveals the full scope of pirates' activities in relation to the landed communities that they serviced and their impact on patterns of development that formed early America and the British Empire.

"Mark Hanna sets piracy in motion. He traces his subjects across their lives and their lives across the centuries. Insisting that Atlantic pirates be understood in terms of the imperial forces that spawned them in one century and then destroyed them in another, he has written a powerfully revisionist work." --Daniel Vickers, University of British Columbia

Mark G. Hanna is associate professor of history at the University of California, San Diego.