Book Review – ‘Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570–1740’ by Johan Francke

By Johan Francke, published January 2021


The Navigation Act of 1696 made provision for more Vice-Admiralty Courts in America. This resulted simultaneously in the objection of local councils and mutual accusations of piracy amongst them. When Parliament introduced the Act for the More Effectual Suppression of Piracy in 1700, the tide definitively turned and what had been tolerated by officials for 160 years now became illegal. The law tried to prevent residents that settled on the land of the colony economically cooperating with pirates. Privateers that turned pirate like Kidd and Quelch miscalculated the change of political tides and were convicted and hanged. After the War of the Spanish Succession only very few ports still welcomed pirates. This led to the short upheaval of American piracy of the 1720s where pirates for the first time turned against their former homeports and patrons. This, in brief, is roughly the content of this book.

The author, Mark G. Hanna is associate professor of history at the University of California in San Diego. This book was published for the Omobundro Institute of Early American History and Culture (Williamsburg, Virginia). Hanna’s study initially arose from a dispute over a paper of his on the role of piracy and the rise of the British Empire. In this study Hanna seeks to analyse and examine the extent to which support and protection of pirates occurred in maritime communities in the periphery of the British Empire, from the end of the sixteenth century until its formalization at the start of the eighteenth century. The very wide range of this book is also its Achilles heel. The interaction and mutual influences between policy and piracy across the whole of the Atlantic world over more than 170 years cannot be developed to a detailed level in a study of this size and depth, although it is already a book of substantial size. The author is most comfortable in the core area of the American Atlantic but begins to falter when moving beyond this subject.

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Filed under: Atlantic | Eighteenth Century | Other (Early Modern) | Pirates | Other (Eighteenth C)
Subjects include: Administration | Pirates, Corsairs & Privateers

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