chapter  10
21 Pages

Shadow States and Ungovernable Ships

The Ideology of Early Modern Piracy
WithClaire Jowitt

This chapter focuses upon how the legitimacy of maritime command was debated in the seventeenth century. Specifically, it explores the ways the terms ‘pirate’, ‘piracy’, and ‘pirate ship’ were used in England to both define and question political authority. Focusing on narratives of piracy in two moments of significant political change, indeed upheaval, the regime change from Tudor to Stuart rule in 1603 and accounts of the rule and regicide of Charles I, I explore the ways accounts of ungovernable pirate ships are used to challenge, stretch, debate, and extend the limits of political legitimacy through the representation of its apparent opposite, political illegitimacy. These debates matter since the drive for imperial and colonial expansion is pivotal to understanding early modern English history. Appreciating the ways in which the ship of state occupies a central role in stories and images of the period, and their various meanings, is thus key to understanding the early modern period.