November 19, 2010
Case studies of historical piracy are not only gripping in their own right, but also provide a means to better understand contemporary Somali piracy. In turn, these cases reveal how to eradicate Somali piracy for good. This presentation contrasts modern Somali piracy with the historical case studies of the Barbary Corsairs and the Anglo-American Deep Sea Pirates. Both groups were dangerous, damaging, and infamous. The Barbary Corsairs were marauders based in North Africa whom Europeans – and later Americans -- fought for some three centuries, from the early 1500s to 1830. Their aggressive assaults on Western shipping, plundering of Western ships, and worst of all, brutal enslavement of Western sailors and passengers, caused deep anxiety among Western powers, instigating myriad naval responses. The Deep Sea Pirates were nomadic, high seas marauders of European and American descent who roamed the seas from about 1690 to 1730 and included such notorious figures as Blackbeard and Captain Kidd. Because of their violence and dampening effect on commerce, the British Empire felt compelled to suppress them, and Britain’s consequent “War against Piracy” went into effect in 1717. Ultimately, the depredations of both piratical groups ended. Why? This presentation explains the reasons, and in turn, explains how this history is instructive for understanding and in turn, suppressing Somali piracy. Along the way, it will present some vivid anecdotes about Golden Age Piracy, provide substantial analysis of Somali piracy, and consider recent technological developments that may help to combat piracy in the Horn of Africa.
Virginia W. Lunsford is an associate professor of history at the United States Naval Academy. She is a specialist in maritime history, especially the history of piracy and privateering; the history of Early Modern Europe; the history of European expansion and colonialism; and the history of the Netherlands. Professor Lunsford holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in History from Harvard University where she studied with Simon Schama. She also earned an M.A. in Government and a B.A. with High Distinction in History and Rhetoric & Communication Studies from the University of Virginia. At the Naval Academy, Professor Lunsford currently teaches courses on "Warfare in the Age of Sail"; "The Golden Age of Piracy: Myth and Reality"; "The Buccaneers: A Case Study in Asymmetrical Warfare"; and "American Naval History." Professor Lunsford is the author of Piracy and Privateering in the Golden Age Netherlands (New York and London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and is currently researching and writing Dead Men Tell No Tales: A Cultural History of Piracy in the Modern Age under contract with Routledge. She has given public lectures on subjects such as early modern sailors, the warfare of the buccaneers, the Battle of Trafalgar, Jean Lafitte and the Battle of New Orleans, Golden Age piracy, the maritime culture of the Golden Age Dutch Republic, and modern Somali piracy. In 2008, she was invited to participate as a featured speaker at the Highlands Forum to help shape future strategy for the Department of Defense. Her academic honors include a U.S. Naval Academy McMullen Sea Power Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship to the Netherlands, appointment as a Krupp Foundation Fellow in European Studies, and as a Visiting Fellow at the University of Leiden’s Institute for the History of European Expansion. She also served as University Writing Fellow at Harvard University. As an acknowledged expert in maritime history and in the history of piracy, Professor Lunsford has appeared on television for the History Channel production of "Unconventional Warfare" (2002) where she spoke on Sir Francis Drake and the failure of the Spanish Armada in 1588. More recently she was featured, at length, in the History Channel program "True Caribbean Pirates" (2006) as an expert on the buccaneers. In response to the upsurge in Somali piracy, Professor Lunsford has written articles for the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, "Why Does Piracy Work?" (December 2008) and for the Baltimore Sun: "Navy Can’t Do it Alone" (April 2009). Additionally, she was an invited participant and collaborator at the national security workshop on "Contemporary Piracy: Consequences & Cures," sponsored by the American Bar Association, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Virginia, and the McCormick Foundation (June 2009); and served as the moderator for the panel on "Pirates: How Do We Defeat Them?" at the U.S. Naval Institute’s and AFCEA International’s "West 2010" conference (February 2010). As an expert on historical piracy, she has been consulted by the Wall Street Journal and CNN, appeared on the Voice of America, and been quoted in U.S. News and World Report, the Straits Times (Singapore) and the Houston Chronicle.