Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740

Mark G. Hanna
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Publisher: Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press
Imprint: OIEAHC
Cloth/Hardcover Publication Date: 04/2015
Pages: 464
Paperback ISBN: 9781469636047
Paperback Publication Date: 04/2017
Ebook ISBN: 9781469617954


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.

About The Author

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


The Frederick Jackson Turner Award, Organization of American Historians (2016)

The John Ben Snow Book Prize, North American Conference on British Studies (2016)

Honorable Mention, John Lyman Book Award, North American Society for Oceanic History (2015)


“Will surely become the definitive work on early modern piracy for maritime and imperial historians alike.”–Itinerario

“Hanna’s well-argued and exhaustively researched book will stand as the critical work on early modern British piracy for some time, but it is also essential reading for anyone interested in the development of the empire.”–William and Mary Quarterly

“This work enlarges the understanding of piracy [and] . . . enriches and displays the maritime foundations of the British Empire. . . . Highly recommended.”–Choice

“Ably details the symbiotic relationship between pirates and colonial ports [and] illuminates the differences in perspective between England and her colonies.”–Pirates and Privateers

“[An] ambitious investigation into the political role of pirates in shaping colonial British American society in the seventeenth century. . . . A valuable addition to a sparse literature on politics in this period.”–Journal of Southern History

“By piling up a treasure-trove of archival information from Britain and its colonies, Hanna has written one of the most important works on piracy to appear in the last three decades.”–Canadian Journal of History

“This book will make an excellent read for popular audiences who are curious about the history of piracy, and it will also be an essential piece of historiography for future historians and researchers.”–Journal of Maritime Research

“Enriched by copious notes that will reward readers with a wealth of data, as well as entertaining and engrossing historiographical context.”–H-Net Reviews

“This carefully researched, beautifully written, and exquisitely detailed monograph turns the study of piracy on its head. In contrast to previous scholarship, which has focused on isolated accounts of colorful individuals and their flamboyant behavior, Mark Hanna concentrates on the nexus between land and sea.”–Dian Murray, New West India Guide

“Hanna’s engaging book has opened up a rich new chapter in the history of piracy through its emphasis on trade. His excellent contribution will do much to supplement social, labor, and political histories of piracy from below.”–Engish Historical Review

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