Transnational Calvinist Cooperation and ‘Mastery of the Sea’ in the Late-Sixteenth Century *
This chapter examines the Huguenot corsaires, Dutch ‘sea beggars’, and English privateers operating from the late 1560s to the early 1580s. It argues that they were inextricably intertwined, sharing common aims and leadership, personnel serving across ethnic divisions, and operating in a common maritime space: the ‘Narrow Seas’ as contemporaries called it. The chapter explores how concepts of sovereignty affected notions of privateering and piracy, especially in the context of the French wars of religion and the Dutch Revolt. In analysing Calvinist private-enterprise maritime warfare in the Narrow Seas maritime Space, the chapter shows that French, Netherlandish, and English Calvinist privateers (and the English officials who unofficially backed them) regularly acted in concert. Finally, the chapter argues that their concerted action was intended to exert ‘mastery (or ‘command) of the sea’—both terms are contemporary and were used by Calvinist privateer captains or their supporters. Reformed mastery of the sea, secured largely through private-enterprise means, was crucial in the survival of the Huguenots and the rebellious provinces of the Netherlands until the emergence of more powerful English and Dutch state navies in the late 1580s and early 1590s brought an end to the era of transnational Calvinist privateering.