Book Review:
Privateers and Pirates,
1730 to 1830

By Angus Konstam
Artwork by
Angus McBride


The tales of pirates and buccaneers have grabbed the attention of most at some stage or another, but the officially sanctioned use of privateers to destroy an enemy’s maritime trade never got quite the same amount of attention.

Most sea-faring nations used privateers during the Napoleonic Wars, but America, France and Britain were the most willing.

Privateer captains would be given a precise letter of marque, which would detail the commander, the number of crew and period of hostility during which they could operate with no fear of being hanged if caught.

The main areas for privateer operations were the Atlantic seaboard of America and the West Indies, where great riches could be made for captains and crews and great damage done to an enemy economy.

In Privateers and Pirates, 1730 to 1830, Angus Konstam looks at privateers as a tool for economic warfare and how their successful voyages wreaked havoc among merchants.

The heyday for the nefarious devils – including John Paul Jones and Jean Lafitte – was between the American Revolution and the end of the War of 1812 in 1815.

Konstam explains the origins of privateers, has some brief biographies of the leading captains, an example of a Letter of Marque and from where and how they operated.

His interesting tales are backed by some fine artwork from Angus McBride.

If you are interested in naval matters during the Napoleonic Wars then this book will be an engaging read on a topic rarely covered.


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