Piracy in a Contested Periphery: Incorporation and the Emergence of the Modern World-System in the Colonial Atlantic Frontier

P. Nick Kardulias, Emily Butcher


This article uses world-systems analysis to examine the role that pirates and privateers played in the competition between European core states in the Atlantic and Caribbean frontier during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Piracy was an integral part of core-periphery interaction, as a force that nations could use against one another in the form of privateers, and as a reaction against increasing constraints on freedom of action by those same states, thus forming a semiperiphery. Although modern portrayals of pirates and privateers paint a distinct line between the two groups, historical records indicate that their actual status was rather fluid, with particular people moving back and forth between the two. As a result, the individuals were on a margin between legality and treason, often crossing from one to the other. In this study we discuss how pirates and privateers fit into the margins of society in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, also known as the Golden Age of Piracy, specifically using the example of Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. The present analysis can contribute to our understanding not only of piracy, but also of the structure of peripheries and semiperipheries that in some ways reflect resistance to incorporation.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2016.652


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