The Development of Strategic Purposes for Attack on Maritime Trade

  • Nicholas Tracy


In the beginning, long before the concept of ‘maritime strategy’ was formed, there was piracy. Piracy was an endemic condition at sea which has an antiquity at least as old as does trade. Indeed modern scholarship is inclined to treat piracy as part of the general system of exchange.1 In South East Asia piracy remains an endemic problem, control of which is a major task of navies in that area.2 It is hardly a matter for surprise, therefore, that the oldest strategic motives for attack on maritime trade are derivatives of the rapacity of pirates, and that trade warfare is conducted in a complex regime of international law reflecting private and public response to the problem of piracy. From the perspective of the twentieth century, the laws of trade warfare appear primarily as restraints upon the considered actions of belligerents. Because of the underlying rapacious motive for attack on trade, however, prize law was at least as important in its function of adjudicating between privateers and naval officers on the one part, and their governors on the other. Prize law ensured that governments were able to exert some measure of control over events at sea, so that the war conducted on trade was compatible with the wider national interests, but the legal regime also prevented governments acquiring absolute control over the activities of their citizens and navies until 1856, when privateering was abolished.


Strategic Purpose Merchant Ship Prize Money Maritime Trade Naval Store 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© John Nicholas Tracy 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas Tracy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada

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