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


  • P. Nick Kardulias Department of Sociology and Anthropology Chair, Program in Archaeology College of Wooster
  • Emily Butcher Department of Anthropology Ball State University Muncie, Indiana




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.

Author Biographies

P. Nick Kardulias, Department of Sociology and Anthropology Chair, Program in Archaeology College of Wooster

P. Nick Kardulias is Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology, and Chair of the Archaeology Program at the College of Wooster (Ohio). He is Associate Director of the Athienou Archaeological Project in Cyprus. Among his publications are eight books that he has authored or edited, and many articles and book chapters. His research focuses on the analysis of stone tools and the application of world-systems analysis in archaeological contexts.

Emily Butcher, Department of Anthropology Ball State University Muncie, Indiana


Emily Butcher recently earned her MA from the Department of Anthropology at Ball State University. She received her undergraduate degree in Archaeology from the College of Wooster (2012). She has served as a Museum Collections Intern at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Her research interests encompass the historic and prehistoric archaeology of eastern North America.


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How to Cite

Kardulias, P. N., & Butcher, E. (2016). Piracy in a Contested Periphery: Incorporation and the Emergence of the Modern World-System in the Colonial Atlantic Frontier. Journal of World-Systems Research, 22(2), 542–564. https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2016.652