The Pirate Myth: Genealogies of an Imperial Concept, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Pirate Myth

Genealogies of an Imperial Concept, 1st Edition

By Amedeo Policante


244 pages | 10 B/W Illus.

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The image of the pirate is at once spectral and ubiquitous. It haunts the imagination of international legal scholars, diplomats and statesmen involved in the war on terror. It returns in the headlines of international newspapers as an untimely ‘security threat’. It materializes on the most provincial cinematic screen and the most acclaimed works of fiction. It casts its shadow over the liquid spatiality of the Net, where cyber-activists, file-sharers and a large part of the global youth are condemned as pirates, often embracing that definition with pride rather than resentment. Today, the pirate remains a powerful political icon, embodying at once the persistent nightmare of an anomic wilderness at the fringe of civilization, and the fantasy of a possible anarchic freedom beyond the rigid norms of the state and of the market. And yet, what are the origins of this persistent ‘pirate myth’ in the Western political imagination? Can we trace the historical trajectory that has charged this ambiguous figure with the emotional, political and imaginary tensions that continue to characterize it? What can we learn from the history of piracy and the ways in which it intertwines with the history of imperialism and international trade? Drawing on international law, political theory, and popular literature, The Pirate Myth offers an authoritative genealogy of this immortal political and cultural icon, showing that the history of piracy – the different ways in which pirates have been used, outlawed and suppressed by the major global powers, but also fantasized, imagined and romanticised by popular culture – can shed unexpected light on the different forms of violence that remain at the basis of our contemporary global order.

Table of Contents

Introduction Part I: Pirate Figures (1400-1800) 1. Persecutio Piratarum: Pirate Outlaws and the Roman Empire 2. The Christian Commonwealth: Pirates, Heretics and Inquisitors 3. Zones of plunder: Piracy and primitive accumulation 4. Enemies of All Nations: Piracy and the World Market, Intermezzo: The Romance of Piracy PartII Pirate Spectres (1800-2012) 5. The Empire of Free Trade: Liberal Universalism and the Pirate States 6. Pirate Spectres: Rightless Outlaws in the Age of Total War 7. Terrorists, Pirates and Rogue States: Global Police Today, Conclusion

About the Author

Amedeo Policante is based in Department of Politics, Goldsmiths College

About the Series

Law and the Postcolonial

Ethics, Politics, & Economy

Law and the Postcolonial: Ethics, Politics, & Economy seeks to expand the critical scope of racial, postcolonial, and global theory and analysis, focusing on how the global juridico-economic apparatus has been, and continues to be, shaped by the Colonial and the Racial structurings of power. It includes works that seek to move beyond the previous privileging of culture in considerations of racial and postcolonial subjectivity to offer a more comprehensive engagement with the legal, economic and moral issues of the global present.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal for the series, please contact:

Denise Ferreira da Silva

The University of British Columbia

[email protected]


Mark Harris

The University of British Columbia

[email protected]


Colin Perrin


2 Park Square

Milton Park



OX14 4RN

[email protected]


Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / International
LAW / Legal History
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / International Security
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Colonialism & Post-Colonialism
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Black Studies (Global)


Why not download our FreeBook Law and Society: A Routledge Sampler? This resource contains a chapter from The Pirate Myth, along with a selection of excerpts from our other titles in the field of sociolegal studies.

Click here for more information, and to access this FreeBook.