Book Review-‘The Corsairs of Saint-Malo: Network organization of a merchant elite under the Ancien Regime’ by H. Hillman

By Jeremy Land, published February 2022


Exploring how privateering provided ample opportunities for mercantile networking and profit-sharing, Henning Hillmann offers a multidisciplinary look at the organizational linkages between merchants, captains, and corsairs (pirates to those they attacked). Attempting to map and understand the rise and fall of Saint-Malo as both a base for privateering and standard commerce, Hillmann utilizes a sociological approach to better understand how social cohesion can be created between rivals, like competitive merchants, when a common interest (in this case, profit) links the two groups or individuals into a shared goal. In this vein, he argues that privateering, or ‘the course,’ provided the glue for social and commercial cohesion in Saint-Melo, and when opportunities for privateering declined, social and commercial networks disintegrated into ever smaller groups. This disintegration, in turn, ultimately led to the decline in Saint-Malo’s position in the early modern Atlantic and global economies…

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Filed under: Atlantic | English Channel
Subjects include: Pirates, Corsairs & Privateers

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