UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

English maritime predation in the mid-sixteenth-century : a high return investment in an established business Lee, Randall Robert


This thesis analyzes mid-sixteenth century English maritime predation as a smoothly run predatory business system, not numerous depredations by individualist renegades motivated by tradition or gambling instincts. Sea-roving offered investment opportunities to shoreside individuals with large or small amounts of ready capital who might become silent partners if the returns they expected were high enough to warrant the risks involved compared to alternative investments. Profitability has been claimed for maritime brigandage by historians, but rarely proven with significant numerical data, although there is much anecdotal evidence of successful participants. While the records surviving do not permit calculation of the actual average revenues and profits, or even precise reconstruction of the accounts of a venture, enough data exists, principally in Admiralty Court records and documents giving prices, to develop a conjectural pro forma of a typical cruise of the era, one that implies that profits might be reasonably anticipated, high enough to attract investment. Supported by the crown, which facilitated predation to advance defence, trade, loyalty, tax revenue and savings on naval expenditures, the ventures gave returns to all the parties involved: investors, shipowners, captains, suppliers, receivers, government officials as well as the crewmen, that were sufficient to make the predatory system an on-going business.

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