Pirate Hunting: The Fight against Pirates, Privateers, and Sea Raiders from Antiquity to the Present

By Gottschalk, Jack | Naval War College Review, Autumn 2012 | Go to article overview

Pirate Hunting: The Fight against Pirates, Privateers, and Sea Raiders from Antiquity to the Present


Gottschalk, Jack, Naval War College Review


Little, Benerson. Pirate Hunting: The Fight against Pirates, Privateers, and Sea Raiders from Antiquity to the Present. Herndon, Va.: Potomac Books, 2010. 357pp. $29.95

This is Benerson Little's latest of three books about pirates. In this one he has done a superb job of recounting the violent history that surrounds pirates and raiders and the measures that have been taken to hunt and suppress them. Also, Little has not forgotten privateers, who, depending on available opportunities, easily switched from being pirate hunters to pirates.

Little opens by noting the differences between pirates, who are principally active on the seas, and raiders, who are more associated with attacking from, not on, the water. Additionally, he provides detailed information about pirate and raider ships and about tactics and weapons, which over the centuries progressed from rams, arrows, and spears to cannon and muskets.

The earliest attempts to counter and suppress pirates and raiders were undertaken by navies and armed merchant vessels, which were, in the latter case, fighting for survival. Pirates and raiders, such as the famous Vikings, carried out coastal raids, as well as attacking ships. Assaults from the sea led to the inland movement of many shore settlements, to the construction of fortifications, and to the creation of early-warning systems of watchtowers. Raiders were vulnerable to ambush, cut offfrom escape and exposing their landing vessels to possible capture and destruction.

Pirate tactics changed with technology and the skills of the hunters. In general, and for a long period in the history of piracy, pirates held the upper hand in terms of ships, vessel ordnance, and individual weapons. …

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