British Privateering Enterprise in the Eighteenth Century

BookBritish Privateering Enterprise in the Eighteenth Century

British Privateering Enterprise in the Eighteenth Century

Exeter Maritime Studies


June 17th, 2022

Access Token


Other Formats



An important part of eighteenth-century maritime conflict involved the destruction of enemy commerce and the protection of home trade. In performing these tasks, state navies were augmented by privateers, vessels owned, equipped and manned by private individuals authorised by their governments to attack and seize the enemy’s seabourne property. For their reward, the investors and seafarers engaged in privateering ventures shared in the proceeds of any ships and goods taken and condemned as lawful prize. Privateering therefore represented a business opportunity to the maritime community, a chance to acquire instant wealth at the enemy’s expense; at the same time, it appeared as a cheap convenient means by which the state might supplement its naval strength. In this important analysis David J. Starkey draws upon a wealth of documentary evidence to throw fresh light upon the character, scale and significance of the British privateering business.

David J Starkey graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in Economic History. He then gained an MA in the History of the Atlantic Economy at the University of Exeter, which led to doctoral research into the character, scale and significance of British privateering in the eighteenth century. Having gained his PhD, Dr Starkey was appointed Research Fellow in the Maritime History of Devon project at the University of Exeter, an appointment that was followed by two further research fellowships in maritime history at Exeter. In 1994, Dr Starkey joined the History Department at Hull when he became the holder of the first permanent lectureship to be dedicated to maritime historical studies in the UK university sector - the Wilson Family Lectureship in Maritime History. Dr Starkey is Director of the Maritime Historical Studies Centre at the University of Hull.

... an excellently researched and written guide to eighteenth-century British privateering which sets new standards for academic achievement.

The American Neptune

The excellence of this book lies in the research that has gone into it, its orderly structure and its readability. Most of all it opens the way for even more detailed work to be undertaken at national, regional and local levels. We are indeed deeply indebted to Dave Starkey.

The Northern Mariner

A first class work of original scholarship and a readable account of a dramatic chapter in nautical history.

Lloyd's List

Author Information

David J Starkey is Professor of Maritime History and Director of the Maritime Historical Studies Centre at the University of Hull.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Part 1 Character17
ONE Origins and Regulation19
TWO Private Men-of-War and 'Letters of Marque'35
THREE Risks and Rewards59
Part 2 Scale83
FOUR 1702–1712 'Their Privateers will be Lords and Ours will be Beggars'85
FIVE 1718–1720 'To Cruise on the Spaniards under His Majesty's Commission'111
SIX 1739–1748 'Good Pickings for Privateers of Force'117
SEVEN 1756–1762 'Small Ships, Vessels, or Boats, being, or Pretending to be, English Privateers'169
EIGHT 1777–1783 'Additional Forces'201
Part 3 Significance251
NINE Constraints and Determinants253
TEN 'Private Interests Inseparable from... the Public Interests of the British Nation?261
ELEVEN 'The Finest Opportunity'?276
1. Primary Source Materials: Problems and Methods295
2. Monthly Activity Rates of Private Men-of-War, 1702–1783301
3. Outfitting Costs313
4. Share Values314
5. Five Prize Accounts316
6. Crew Composition, Royal Family Private Ships-of-War, 1747324
7. Commissioned Vessels by Region, 1793–1801330
8. Commissioned Vessels by Region, 1803–1815331