Privateering, Piracy and British Policy in Spanish America, 1810-1830

Privateering, Piracy and British Policy in Spanish America, 1810-1830

Matthew McCarthy


Boydell Press



Shows how the political turmoil of the Spanish American Wars of Independence allowed an upsurge in prize-taking activity by navies, privateers and pirates.
Private maritime predation was integral to the Spanish American Wars of Independence. When colonists rebelled against Spanish rule in 1810 they deployed privateers - los corsarios insurgentes - to prosecute their revolutionary struggle at sea. Spain responded by commissioning privateers of its own, while the disintegration of Spanish authority in the New World created conditions in which unauthorised prize-taking - piracy - also flourished.
This upsurge in privateering and piracy has been neglected by historians yet it posed a significant threat to British interests. As numerous vessels were captured and plundered, the British government - endeavouring to remain neutral in the Spanish American conflict - faced a dilemma. An insufficient response might hinder Britain's commercial expansion but an overly aggressive approach risked plunging the nation into another war. Privateering, Piracy and British Policy in Spanish America assesses the varied and flexible ways the British government responded to prize-taking activity in order to safeguard and enhance its wider commercial and political objectives. This analysis marks a significant and original contribution to the study of privateering and piracy, and informs key debates about the development of international law and the character of British imperialism in the nineteenth century.
Matthew McCarthy is Research Officer at the Maritime Historical Studies Centre, University of Hull. He was awarded his PhD by the University of Hull in 2011 and won the British Commission for Maritime History/Boydell & Brewer prize for best doctoral thesis in maritime history.


August 2013
5 line illustrations
194 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843838616
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS027150, HIS015000, HIS024000
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Table of Contents

British Interests in Spanish America
Privateering & Piracy
Traders' Ghastly Wounds
Response to Insurgent Privateering
Response to Spanish Privateering
The Anglo-Spanish Claims Commission
Response to Cuban-based Piracy
Conclusion: Maritime Predation, Legal Posturing & Power


McCarthy's book is a major addition to our understanding of the issue (of privateering in Spanish America), and a recasting of the context in which such campaigns must be read. THE AMERICAS

Raises important new questions about British intentions versus contingency at this crucial, post-Napoleonic juncture. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MARITIME HISTORY