British-colonial privateering in the War of the Spanish Succession, 1702-1713

Morley, Nicholas (2000) British-colonial privateering in the War of the Spanish Succession, 1702-1713. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Despite the fact that privateers cruised in all the major inter-colonial wars of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, often enjoying far greater success in capturing prizes than the Royal Navy, for the twentieth century mind privateering is an almost unknown enterprise. Piracy and the activities of the navy, by contrast, are far better understood. Historians must, first and foremost, take the blame for this anonymity, for by neglecting to discuss privateering history in a detailed and accurate fashion, they have tended to shroud its existence and significance. The role of literature and film has exacerbated this situation. Since the 1970s, a growing number of academics have begun to discuss the prize war generally, and privateering specifically, in a far more systematic fashion. The work of Kenneth Andrews, J.S. Bromley and David Starkey, to name but three, have greatly improved our understanding of the role and importance of private men-of-war. Their work tends to concentrate on privateering in European waters, leaving the colonial experience largely at the mercy of traditional historiography. Carl Swanson has made some useful inroads into this inequality with his investigation of the American prize war in the 1740s. He has convincingly demonstrated that privateering was a popular and widespread enterprise that was actively encouraged by imperial governments. British- colonial privateering in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, by contrast, has received only scant attention from historians, old and new alike. This fact seems strange when one considers that during this period government took an unprecedented interest in privateering and the prize war. In the War of the Spanish Successuion (sometimes known as Queen Anne's War), for instance, British privateering became more strictly regulated than ever before, while French naval resources were almost entirely handed over to private armateurs. My aim in writing this thesis is to try and extend our understanding of British- colonial privateering in the War of the Spanish Succession. French privateering and the activities of the Royal Navy will also be occasionally discussed in an attempt to provide a more complete picture of the prize war. I will seek to discard traditional historiography wherever possible and approach my research with an open mind as to the significance of privateering in early eighteenth century warfare. I have focused on three main areas, namely, the rules of privateering, its attraction to government, investors and seamen, and finally, its effect on commerce and economic development. The major evidential base for this study is a data file, of references to prize captures that have been drawn from a variety of manuscript and printed primary sources. Secondary sources have also proved extremely useful, particularly in my discussions of French privateering and the activities of the Royal Navy. The results of my research have broken with traditional historiography and suggested that rather than being a borderline enterprise of limited significance, privateering played an important part in the colonial sphere of the War of the Spanish Succession. In addition, I have argued that the early eighteenth century marked a crucial turning point in privateering history, the ramifications of which were felt in later intercolonial wars. Encouraged by imperial and colonial governmental officials at every level, British-colonial privateers were more numerous in Queen Anne's War than ever before. The outbreak of hostilities in May 1702 was greeted with jubilation because of the opportunity it offered for privateering. Royal instructions were issued, and parliamentary legislation enacted, to ensure that privateering was not only better regulated, but also more financially attractive for investors and seamen. As a consequence, many of the most affluent and respected members of British North American and Caribbean society invested ships and money in privateering, while thousands of seamen risked their lives in the hope of making their fortune. Privateers not only captured hundreds of enemy vessels, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, but also helped indirectly protect British colonial trade. Privateering thus had a significant impact on inter-colonial and Atlantic commerce, and, more generally, on the progress and even the outcome of the War of the Spanish Succession.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: European history, Military history
Date of Award: 2000
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2000-73174
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/73174

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