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Elusive Pirates, Pervasive Smugglers

Violence and Clandestine Trade in the Greater China Seas

Edited by Robert J. Antony

Publication Year: 2010

Piracy and smuggling are as great a problem today as they were several hundreds of years ago. The studies in Elusive Pirates, Pervasive Smugglers, for the first time, carefully describe and critically analyze piracy and smuggling in the Greater China Seas region from the sixteenth century to the present. Because piracy and smuggling involve complex historical processes that are still evolving, to fully understand contemporary problems it is important to place them in larger historical and comparative perspectives. The essays in this book add significantly to the scholarship on East and Southeast Asian history, and in particular to the maritime history of the region we call the Greater China Seas. This is the first book to analyze the whole region from Japan to Southeast Asia as a single, integrated historical and geographical area. This book takes a radical departure from the standard terra-centered histories to place the seas at the center rather than at the margins of our inquiries. By focusing on the water we are better able to stitch together the diverse histories of Japan, China, and Southeast Asia. Although often dismissed as historically unimportant, the contributors to this anthology show that in fact pirates and smugglers have played significant roles in the development of the modern world. Elusive Pirates, Pervasive Smugglers should appeal to undergraduate and graduate students in history and Asian studies, as well as to general readers interested in pirates and maritime history.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

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pp. ix-x

The idea for doing this book began several years ago at a workshop on the history of the South China Sea organized by Charles Wheeler, then at the University of California, Irvine. A few years later, at a conference in Shanghai on Asian piracy, I found a number of colleagues and friends interested in participating in another...


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pp. xi-xiv


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pp. xv-x

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1 - Introduction: The Shadowy World of the Greater China Seas

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pp. 1-14

Many problems of the past still haunt us today — piracy and smuggling among them. Although maritime marauding reached a peak in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries — the so-called “golden age of piracy” — it has never completely vanished from around the globe. Today, piracy appears in many of the same areas where it thrived two or three hundred years ago. Although a worldwide ...

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2 - Violence at Sea: Unpacking “Piracy” in the Claims of States over Asian Seas

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pp. 15-26

The contemporary international community is rightly concerned with piracy as a global problem that challenges its system, and needs to be addressed by all. The word “piracy,” however, derives specifically from English, and comes out of a particular European experience of interstate rivalry. It translates readily into the major European languages, which used the concept when interacting with each other ...

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3 - From Sea Bandits to Sea Lords: Nonstate Violence and Pirate Identities in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Japan

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pp. 27-42

Despite the significant presence of pirates in both popular and scholarly media, all too often in history, the subjectivities of seafarers labeled pirates remain elusive. The term pirate does not constitute a stable, objective category that a simple legal definition can make comprehensible. In most cases, the meaning of “pirate” depends on its representations in various historical and cultural contexts.2 Although seafarers ...

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4 - Merchants, Smugglers, and Pirates: Multinational Clandestine Trade on the South China Coast, 1520–50

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pp. 43-58

Since the 1980s, the shadow or hidden economy has increasingly become a controversial topic among scholars and policymakers, but is hardly anything new since we can easily discover similar illicit activities in the history of the premodern world and, particularly, in maritime Asia. We can single out the first half of the sixteenth century, for example, as a crucial period in the history of maritime China, ...

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5 - Pirates, Gunpowder, and Christianity in Late Sixteenth-Century Japan

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pp. 58-72

In the late sixteenth century, more than sixty domains, each ruled by a warlord, and often in conflict with each other, divided Japan territorially. In southern Japan, the disputes among warlords incited political and social instability, but as this coincided with the arrival of Chinese outlaws and Portuguese adventurers, it also brought about economic opportunities for the lower strata of the population, particularly ...

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6 - At the Crossroads: Limahon and Wakō in Sixteenth-Century Philippines

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pp. 73-84

In the sixteenth century, the Philippine Islands occupied a crossroads of culture, trade, and piracy. Many Chinese and European sources clearly show that these islands drew upon a well-established maritime network linking Japan, Borneo, Vietnam, Thailand, and South China. After the Spanish occupied Manila, it added Mexico to this network. Even before the Spanish arrival, the Philippines represented one of ...

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7 - Piracy and Coastal Security in Southeastern China, 1600–1780

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pp. 85-98

The years 1600 to 1780 were particularly important in Chinese history in general and in the history of piracy in particular. The first half of the seventeenth century marked a time of great chaos and anarchy highlighted by the Ming-Qing dynastic wars. Social disorders on both land and sea continued until 1683, when the Manchus conquered Taiwan. The island had survived as the last bastion of Ming loyalism ...

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8 - Piracy and the Shadow Economy in the South China Sea, 1780–1810

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pp. 99-114

In China, when pirates extorted money and goods from victims, they euphemistically referred to their actions as “levying duties on personal wealth” (xishu caibo).1 Although they acted outside the law and the normal, licit trading system, pirates considered their activities a justifiable collection of tribute on private property. They attacked shipping not to destroy trade, but rather to gain a more equitable share in it. Theirs was ...

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9 - Poor but Not Pirates: The Tsushima Domain and Foreign Relations in Early Modern Japan

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pp. 115-126

Over the past few decades, historians have demonstrated that, during the Edo period (1603–1868), Japan pursued foreign relations policies very much in tune with its Asian neighbors. For one, Arano Yasunori has illustrated how Japanese leaders restricted overseas trade and the movement of foreign merchants, took measures to stamp out Christianity, and established diplomatic protocols in ways ...

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10 - The Business of Violence: Piracy around Riau, Lingga, and Singapore, 1820–40

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pp. 127-142

In the early nineteenth century, Dutch and British authorities knew well that an increasing number of piratical attacks around Riau, Lingga, and Singapore were seriously damaging trade.1 To manage this problem, both colonial governments ordered their officials to collect detailed information on the pirates. Numerous reports, both published and unpublished, resulted. Writings from the colonial period, ...

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11 - Smuggling in the South China Sea: Alternate Histories of a Nonstate Space in the Late Nineteenth and Late Twentieth Centuries

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pp. 143-154

The South China Sea presents researchers with an embarrassment of riches. Historically, it served as an important crossroads, funneling trade, migration, and the flow of ideas between East and Southeast Asia for at least two thousand years. Today, it still fulfills all of these functions, but also has taken on renewed geopolitical significance in the contest for resources and power between independent nation-...


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pp. 155-174


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pp. 175-178


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pp. 179-194


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pp. 195-201

E-ISBN-13: 9789882206083
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888028115

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 13 maps, 13 b/w images and tables
Publication Year: 2010