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The ideological origins of piracy in international legal thought

Krever, Tor (2018) The ideological origins of piracy in international legal thought. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.waa27ph9vy9l


This thesis explores the origins of the pirate in international legal thought. It takes as its starting point the recent wave of piracy off the coast of Somalia, mapping the image of the pirate constructed by contemporary legal commentators. The figure of the pirate that takes shape is the archetype of illegitimacy and epitome of enmity in international law: hostis humani generis. Where and when did this figure first emerge in international legal thought? My argument is twofold. First, against dominant transhistorical accounts which project the pirate backwards in an unbroken arc from the present to antiquity, I show that its juridical identity has been marked by fundamental discontinuities and transformations. Second, I locate the construction of a distinctly modern figure of the pirate in the emergence of a capitalist world economy in the long 16th century. The pirate’s universal enmity, I suggest, was initially religious in nature, an ideology rooted in inter-imperial rivalries confronting Habsburg Spain with Ottoman, in the Mediterranean, and Protestant, in the Atlantic, threats to a universalising Christendom. With the development of an early capitalist economy and the growing coincidence of imperial interests with trade, the image of the pirate began to change. In the work of Grotius, I argue, its enmity was transformed, the pirate rendered not as religious foe, but as enemy of a universal right to commerce. It is this new secular figure of enmity, the thesis concludes, that is produced and reproduced in modern legal thought.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Tor Krever
Library of Congress subject classification: K Law > K Law (General)
Sets: Departments > Law
Supervisor: Marks, Susan

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