Asian Piracy

TitleAsian Piracy
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsPrange, S
Book TitleOxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History
PublisherOxford University Press
KeywordsAsia, empire, Historiography, Indian Ocean, Law, Maritime history, piracy, privateering, Trade
Abstract

Piracy has been an important and persistent feature of Asia’s maritime history. In fact, the largest pirate organizations in all of history were found in Asia. Although often regarded as the antithesis of trade, piracy is actually closely related to the world of commerce. Pirates were themselves often traders (or smugglers) and relied on merchants to outfit their ships and sell their plunder. Despite the obvious and primary economic dimension of piracy, pirates were also political actors. This observation is significant because piracy has traditionally been distinguished from other forms of maritime predation (especially privateering, but also naval warfare) by stressing its supposedly inherently private nature. In Asia, however, the history of piracy is very much defined by its political contexts. Pirates themselves formed polities, whether as part of established coastal communities or in their endeavors to build their own states. What is more, as was the case in Europe, pirates often colluded with territorial states that used them as an instrument of state power, in order to harass and weaken their rivals. The political dimension of Asian piracy has long been overlooked due to the preponderance of European concepts and sources, which tend to depict all Asians involved in maritime predation as mere criminals. More nuanced studies of Asian pirates, especially when based on non-European sources, promise fresh insights into the commercial, social, and political worlds of maritime Asia.

URLhttp://asianhistory.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.001.0001/acrefore-9780190277727-e-32
DOI10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.013.32
Refereed DesignationRefereed