Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves (Hardcover)

Colonial America and the Indo-Atlantic World (California World History Library #21)

By Kevin P. McDonald

University of California Press, 9780520282902, 237pp.

Publication Date: March 13, 2015

List Price: 60.00*
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In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, more than a thousand pirates poured from the Atlantic into the Indian Ocean. There, according to Kevin P. McDonald, they helped launch an informal trade network that spanned the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds, connecting the North American colonies with the rich markets of the East Indies. Rather than conducting their commerce through chartered companies based in London or Lisbon, colonial merchants in New York entered into an alliance with Euro-American pirates based in Madagascar. Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves explores the resulting global trade network located on the peripheries of world empires and shows the illicit ways American colonists met the consumer demand for slaves and East India goods. The book reveals that pirates played a significant yet misunderstood role in this period and that seafaring slaves were both commodities and essential components in the Indo-Atlantic maritime networks.

Enlivened by stories of Indo-Atlantic sailors and cargoes that included textiles, spices, jewels and precious metals, chinaware, alcohol, and drugs, this book links previously isolated themes of piracy, colonialism, slavery, transoceanic networks, and cross-cultural interactions and extends the boundaries of traditional Atlantic, national, world, and colonial histories.

About the Author

Kevin P. McDonald is Assistant Professor of History at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. 

Praise For Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves: Colonial America and the Indo-Atlantic World (California World History Library #21)

"Extremely well researched."

— American Historical Review

"McDonald succeeds in sketching a new geography of the British Atlantic in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."

— Humanities and Social Science

"McDonald uses his case study to great effect, demonstrating the ways that pirates connected colonial America to a much wider world.... [he] introduces a new category of analysis: the Indo-Atlantic world... [and] identifies a key facet of the history of piracy that has received too little attention from previous scholars... perhaps the most important contribution is [it shines] light on the neglected but critical last decades of the seventeenth century."

— The William and Mary Quarterly

"[It will] change how scholars of seventeenth-century colonial America make sense of the relationship between law, commerce, and culture in the Atlantic world and beyond . . . breaks new ground by establishing that piratical activity was diverse, widespread, and seasonal . . . McDonald has done a remarkable job marshaling primary sources from archives in the United Kingdom and the United States in support of his ambitious argument . . . McDonald has written an important and powerful book that will make a substantial impact on the historiography of early American commerce."

— Journal of American History

"McDonald’s book is the most global-minded of the three [books reviewed], and his explicit intellectual engagement with world history as a way of understanding free and unfree migration patterns as well as maritime and trade circuits is refreshing. . . an excellent teaching resource. . . the whole book is ideal for classroom use."

— Reviews in American History

"McDonald’s carefully researched and crisply-written book makes a number of important interventions in its field: enhancing our appreciation of the vital connections between the colonial Atlantic and the emerging company state in India; by demonstrating the scope of colonial autonomy, and the corresponding limits of the British imperial state; and by revealing the extent to which imperial rivalry shaped and disrupted a set of global frontiers and zones of interaction. Pirates did not merely act as plunderers and despoilers, but were as vital in shaping a series of economic and cultural peripheries, and integrating them into an emerging global order."

— International Journal of Maritime History

"The book is well written and tells a captivating story."

— Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

"McDonald succeeds in sketching a new geography of the British Atlantic in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, one that extends—through Madagascar—to the Indian Ocean. He demonstrates that contemporary Englishmen’s horizons were broader than those of most historians of the British Atlantic. This is an eye-opening and enlightening contribution, which requires other scholars to reframe their histories and periodizations (including such concepts as “First” and “Second” British Empires)."

— H-War

"A thought-provoking book that will register with both scholars and students of early-modern Atlantic and Indian Ocean studies. . . McDonald’s analysis of . . . the 'pirate-slave trade nexus' contributes to the growing body of literature that argues piracy contributed to the emergence of seventeenth-century merchant capitalism rather than undermined it. . . a fascinating work of history that uncovers how diverse pursuits. . . served to interlock distant and relatively small maritime communities across the globe at the end of the seventeenth century. . . a wonderful addition and. . . a sophisticated analysis."

— International Review of Social History

"A highly readable and important contribution to our understanding of pirates’ role in colonial projects in both the Americas and Madagascar. . . sheds much needed light on the Madagascar slave trade and the subsequent Malagasy diaspora. . . deserves high praise for providing a fresh perspective on Indian Ocean pirates, their settlement of St. Mary’s on Madagascar, and their participation in the Malagasy slave trade."

— Journal of World History