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Pirates of Empire
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Book description

The suppression of piracy and other forms of maritime violence was a keystone in the colonisation of Southeast Asia. Focusing on what was seen in the nineteenth century as the three most pirate-infested areas in the region - the Sulu Sea, the Strait of Malacca and Indochina - this comparative study in colonial history explores how piracy was defined, contested and used to resist or justify colonial expansion, particularly during the most intense phase of imperial expansion in Southeast Asia from c.1850 to c.1920. In doing so, it demonstrates that piratical activity continued to occur in many parts of Southeast Asia well beyond the mid-nineteenth century, when most existing studies of piracy in the region end their period of investigation. It also points to the changes over time in how piracy was conceptualised and dealt with by each of the major colonial powers in the region - Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.


‘In Pirates of Empires, Stefan Eklöf Amirell provides a detailed, often vivid presentation of the European crackdown on piracy in Southeast Asia. A refreshingly complex take on both the undeniable brutality of piracy for indigenous populations and the cynical exploitation of this scourge to advance colonial rule.'

Michael Miller - University of Miami

‘This is a complex and engaging book; it crosses a good portion of Southeast Asia, and looks at the deep history of piracy in the region from a number of inter-locking angles. Solidly researched and provocative, it helps us to look at the phenomenon of piracy in new and fascinating ways.'

Eric Tagliacozzo - Cornell University, New York

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Full book PDF
  • Pirates of Empire
    pp i-ii
  • Pirates of Empire - Title page
    pp iii-iii
  • Colonisation And Maritime Violence In Southeast Asia
  • Copyright page
    pp iv-iv
  • Contents
    pp v-v
  • Maps
    pp vi-vi
  • Preface
    pp vii-viii
  • Acknowledgements
    pp ix-x
  • Introduction
    pp 1-20
  • 1 - Piracy in Global and Southeast Asian History
    pp 21-41
  • 2 - The Sulu Sea
    pp 42-95
  • 3 - The Strait of Malacca
    pp 96-160
  • 4 - Indochina
    pp 161-208
  • Conclusion
    pp 209-231
  • Epilogue: Piracy and the End of Empire
    pp 232-235
  • Bibliography
    pp 236-256
  • Index
    pp 257-266


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