The Economic and Military Impact of Privateers and Pirates on Britain’s Rise as a World Power

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Privateers and pirates were instrumental in the development of English and British colonies and territories through military support and economic enrichment. British policy was to use privateers to help break

Privateers and pirates were instrumental in the development of English and British colonies and territories through military support and economic enrichment. British policy was to use privateers to help break into the New World when it was dominated by Spain, and Britain’s navy was no match for Spain’s navy. The privateers were used to protect the colonies, like Jamaica, from Spanish invasion and to militarily weaken Spain, Portugal, and others by taking or destroying their ships. Plundering brought in substantial wealth to the colonies and the crown while working for British governors. Eventually, Britain’s policy changed when it became more established in the Caribbean and the New World, and because some of its pro-Catholic monarchs made peace with Spain. Sugar production increased and there was less need for privateers. Most privateers moved to new bases in the North American colonies and Madagascar where they continued to be paid to work on behalf of others, in this case mostly for merchants and local politicians. Besides enriching the North American colonies economies through plunder, the privateers also helped protect them from the Native Americans. As pirates from Madagascar, they raided Mughal merchant fleets, bringing loot and exotic goods to the North American colonies in the seventeenth century, which also helped boost trade with Asia because colonists desired Asian goods. The pirates brought massive numbers of slaves from Madagascar to the colonies to sell. Pirates also operated in the Caribbean. There, they were beneficial to the colonies by bringing in money, yet problematic because they would sometimes raid British ships. When Britain became a global power, privateers and pirates became more of a nuisance than a help to the empire and it stopped using them. Still, in the 1800s, a privateer resurgence occurred in the United States and these individuals and their ships served the same function as they had with Britain, helping a new power break into areas across the sea when it lacked a strong navy. Though somewhat problematic to Britain these privateers did benefit the empire by helping Spain’s colonies gain their independence.