Working Paper 160

Piracy in the Indian Ocean (ca. 1680–1750)

Burkhard Schnepel

Max Planck Fellow Group Connectivity in Motion

Year of publication

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Working Paper 160

This paper is about those manifestations of maritime violence that have been labelled piracy. Inevitably it is also about the power to define and judge some kinds of maritime violence as rightful and others as not. Finally and most importantly, I shall examine the nature of the delicate, but more often than not intimate, relationship and entanglement between pirates and piracy, on the one hand, and those agents and activities that were (considered) more legitimate, on the other. To look at piracy only in confrontational and oppositional terms would not only mean misunderstanding the nature of the colonising project and its moving forces, but also neglecting the vital and often integral role piracy played at certain times and places during this age of mercantilism and proto-globalisation in achieving ‘connectivity in motion’ across the Indian Ocean. The particular manifestation of the universal phenomenon of piracy that I wish to address here refers to the southwestern part of the Indian Ocean during the late seventeenth and early to mid-eighteenth century.

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