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Patricia Risso - Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Piracy: Maritime Violence in the Western Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf Region during a Long Eighteenth Century - Journal of World History 12:2 Journal of World History 12.2 (2001) 293-319

Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Piracy: Maritime Violence in the Western Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf Region during a Long Eighteenth Century

Patricia Risso
University of New Mexico

In the 1690s, a daring and competent mariner named Kanhoji Angre (or Angria) achieved both fame and notoriety along the coast of west central India. He was a sometime ally of the Marathas, and shared their goal of resisting Mughal imperial expansion. In diplomatic exchanges, the Mughals represented him as an enemy. The English East India Company (EIC), however, categorized him as a pirate because he and his men had attacked several company vessels. Some historians have depicted Kanhoji as a champion of Indian resistance to Europeans.

Another notorious mariner and contemporary of Kanhoji was the Englishman William Kidd. He spent a brief portion of his maritime career attacking vessels near the western shore of India. His targets included a royal Mughal ship and a few European merchant vessels as well. The Mughal ruler considered him a European enemy and the company called him a pirate, while Kidd defended himself as a privateer in the service of his country.

Examples of such disparate perspectives on maritime activity abound. This activity is distinct from naval warfare, although the two have some tangent points and are not always easy to distinguish. The concept of maritime violence that I want to examine involves the indiscriminate seizure of seaborne or coastal property, under threat or [End Page 293] use of force. It sometimes involves also the holding of passengers and crew for ransom. Such maritime violence sometimes overlaps with trade because it entails economic gain and because armed merchant ships could be defensive or aggressive. In this article, the word "piracy" is used to indicate a subset of maritime violence but is not exactly the same. The indiscriminate quality of my concept brings it close to most English definitions of piracy, but lacks the usual insistence on illegality. I use "maritime violence" in order to avoid loaded terms such as "banditry" and also to broaden my scope without losing too much specificity.

The intent of this article is to explore maritime violence over the course of a long eighteenth century. Although economic and political motivations for such violence are significant to the argument, the primary purpose here is to examine clusters of less obvious cultural elements, including vocabularies used in specific instances of violence and also including the rhetoric of maritime competition. My contention is that these cultural elements contribute significantly to an explanation for differing perspectives of maritime violence. This explanation is, I think, more convincing than others that rely heavily either on an absolute, universal concept of "piracy" or on a position of moral relativism. It is hoped that this analysis of language will recommend itself to other contested interpretations of "piracy."

The article consists of four sections and a conclusion. The first section discusses the historiography of maritime violence in the western Indian Ocean/Persian Gulf region. The second section is a discussion of the language of maritime violence, particularly the vocabularies of both the English and Arabic sources relevant to case studies in the third and fourth sections. Those case studies each occupy two blocks of thirty years: 1690 to 1720 and 1790 to 1820. The blocks of time invite comparison because each represents a striking concentration of maritime violence. They also happen to coincide, roughly, with the opening and closure of a long eighteenth century that encompasses the development of the British empire in and around India, a development from commercial participant to territorial power. The very different British roles in the two blocks afford more depth to the comparison. The earlier case study concerns maritime violence along the west coast of India. It contains the stories of Kanhoji Angre and William Kidd, mentioned above, and of Arabo-Indian mariners from coastal Oman. The later case study focuses on British India's suppression of what it considered piracy in the Persian Gulf. [End Page 294]


The first writers to become interested in "piracy" in the western Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf were British. Their research was based largely on East India Company records, a rich source for many topics, but misleading if used in isolation. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, two names emerged prominently from this endeavor: J. G. Lorimer, 1 who served briefly as a British Resident in the Gulf region and who wrote for the British government, and C. R. Low, a historian of the British Indian Navy. 2 One of their explanations for piracy is that sixteenth-century Portuguese brutality had forced some locals in the region to resort to crime, a situation that required the more civilized Britons to reestablish law and order when they arrived on the scene. Another explanation is that piracy was a seaward extension of the tribal Bedouin raid (Arabic: ghazwa). Such behavior was understandable in a harsh, arid climate and among disadvantaged ports, but from the British point of view, it was still criminal. 3

Relatively few Europeans, such as William Kidd, are included in this category of pirates. Most European maritime violence in the region is considered to be an extension of wars that had begun in Europe. The British approach associated with Lorimer and Low makes ample use of the term "privateering," thus acknowledging as legitimate those Europeans who held licenses or contracts, granted by European states, to attack vessels carrying the flag of a declared enemy.

According to Lorimer and Low, the role of the East India Company in all this was to stop the many local and few European pirates. The company reluctantly assumed responsibility for securing all trade. They also wished to secure their own mail route through the Persian Gulf that constituted one of the links between British India and London. This British view, absolutist in its concept of piracy, remained in evidence throughout the twentieth century. 4 [End Page 295]

Beginning in the 1960s, a new position took shape that is more consistent with moral relativism. Proponents of this second tendency argue that the English term piracy is often applied inappropriately to indigenous naval warfare and to commercial competition between neighbors, including competition from British India. The British attempted to suppress such activity both by force and through treaty relationships. Their purposes were to secure trade and communication and also to increase their own share of regional trade revenues that helped pay for their empire. In other words, for the British, the suppression of what they considered piracy was a tool in commercial competition and in the building of empire--bad means to a bad end. Examples of this approach include Gulf historian Muhammad Morsy Abdullah, who emphasizes commercial competition from Europeans as an explanation for what the same Europeans called "Arab piracy." 5 Robert Landen argues that steamships based in British India, beginning in the last third of the nineteenth century, cut deeply into the volume of carrying trade available to dhows based in the Gulf. The owners and users of dhows, who were usually Arabs, Persians, or Indians from outside British India, found themselves caught between the British policy to suppress "piracy" and the necessity of maritime violence as a strategy for survival. 6 Writers who follow this second approach raise questions about British use of the word "piracy" outside its own cultural context. The term is, they argue, pejorative and denotes illegality in foreign circumstances that were misunderstood by the British. The attention to terminology and conceptualization leads to my own questions about not only English usage but the vocabularies of other languages used in the region under discussion, particularly Arabic.

Concepts and Vocabulary of Maritime Violence

The English word "pirate" comes from a recognizable Greek cognate, transliterated peirates. This ancient term seems to have represented a broad range of maritime violence in the multi-coastal environment of Greece and the wider Mediterranean. The Romans provided a significant [End Page 296] step in the evolution of a more precise usage by defining a pirate (pirata) as an enemy of all humanity. Violence against a specific enemy came to be regarded as legal while opportunistic, indiscriminate violence was not. 7 Saint Augustine drew attention to the issue by making famous the following story line: A mariner was captured by Alexander the Great and was accused of piracy. Alexander admonished him for his audacious behavior. The mariner responded that he himself was called a robber because he operated from a small vessel while Alexander was called an emperor because he employed an entire fleet. 8 Augustine referred to this story in order to make the point that emperors could, unfortunately, commit crimes with impunity. Others have retold the story in order to justify the mariner/pirate, whose activity they regard as an anti-imperial--and, therefore, legitimate--struggle for a share of trade revenue. 9

The topic of moral relativism with regard to maritime violence has appeared in the writings of English-language scholars and intellectuals. Samuel Taylor Coleridge--referring to Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake, who had been accused of piracy two centuries earlier--formulated this maxim: "No man is a pirate, unless his contemporaries agree to call him so." 10 Influenced by Eric J. Hobsbawm's well-known theory of social banditry, a historian of eighteenth-century Anglo-American seamen argues that so-called pirates had both a "consciousness of kind" and a common "egalitarian" ethos built on resentment toward the oppressive hierarchies of either the Royal Navy or the merchant shipping industry. 11

English vocabulary for illegal maritime violence allows for nuances. Other Anglicized words commonly used as synonyms for pirate include: freebooter (from the Dutch for free and booty), originally a rogue adventurer or mercenary; buccaneer (from the French for one who dries and smokes meat), a pirate in the Caribbean; and corsair [End Page 297] (from the Latin, "to run"), usually applied to a pirate in the Mediterranean. These synonyms allowed for some descriptive variation, but carried the same legal connotations as "pirate." British law did not accommodate moral relativism but, as mentioned above, it did distinguish between piracy and privateering. In legal dictionaries, exemplified here by Wharton's Lexicon, "piracy" is defined as: "the commission of those acts of robbery and violence upon the sea, which, if committed upon land, would amount to felony. Pirates hold no commission of delegated authority from any sovereign or state empowering them to attack others." 12 Those who held delegated authority from a government were "privateers," an elision of "private" and "volunteer." The term referred to a merchant or civilian captain who offered his vessel's services during a declared war in exchange for a portion of any booty.

The East India Company, through its extensive charter powers, represented British government and culture in the Indian Ocean region. The EIC functioned on the premise that British law and order were in the best interests of trade and empire. Arguably, the maintenance of any law and order was easier (and historically earlier) on land than on the high seas or even along coastal waters. Not only was enforcement difficult but jurisdiction was vastly problematic. S. Charles Hill, a British historian of the Indian Ocean, emphasized that the lack of a universally accepted maritime law had the effect of reducing the English definition of piracy to a legal fiction. 13 Nevertheless, attempts to identify and to stop "piracy" were part of the imperial mindset, as is clearly illustrated in the case studies below.

British confidence in imperial law and order has a parallel in Chinese imperial administrations. China, especially in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, had extended its pre-eminent maritime capability to the Indian Ocean. In the long eighteenth century being discussed here, China was still the leading power in the China seas and Chinese vessels still appeared regularly at Indian ports. Chinese law had a vocabulary of maritime violence that, like the legal vocabulary of the British, remained consistent over centuries. Two terms seem to have had the widest use: haikou (the characters for "sea" and "robbery") and haidao ("sea" and "thief/robber"). The latter has a literary usage dating [End Page 298] from the third century C.E. 14 Sea banditry, along with land banditry, fell into the imperial legal category of "theft" (dao) or "theft with violence" (daozei). 15 Both the British and Chinese had vested imperial interests in extending the law to the sea.

In contrast to the consistent legal terms in English and Chinese, the vocabularies of plunder in languages of the western Indian Ocean region tended to be more fluid. In Sanskritic languages, including Marathi and Hindi, various combinations of "maritime" (samudrii) with various banditry terms (such as chaurya, "theft" and daakaa, "attack") were common. Phonetic transliterations of the English words "piracy," "pirate," and "piratical" appear in the English-Hindi and English-Sanskrit dictionaries that I consulted. These suggest at least the possibility of a need to borrow the English terminology. 16 Sanskritic languages, particularly Marathi, are crucial for the land-based history of western India; however, Persian maritime vocabulary, much of it borrowed from Arabic, was commonly used in the environment of Kanhoji Angre and his Maratha allies. Their mutual enemy, the Mughal regime, used Arabic-influenced Persian as its official language. Furthermore, Arabic was the primary language of many of the participants in both case studies presented below and, therefore, deserves as much or more attention than English. [End Page 299]

Although Arabic and Arabic-influenced languages were widely used in the western Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf, reference to maritime violence in Arabic sources has received little attention. 17 There is no Arabic word that conveys a legal connotation comparable to that of the English term "piracy," a situation that goes a long way to explain any lack of mutual understanding about maritime violence. While the region had well-understood customary rules about fishing and salvage, and formal Islamic laws concerning commercial transactions and contracts, "piracy" was not linguistically distinguished as explicitly illegal. 18

While there is no single Arabic term for "piracy," there is a wide vocabulary of violence and plunder, on land or sea, and within or outside the confines of war (harb). Vocabulary from dictionaries (transliterated here without diacritical marks or long vowels) includes: salaba, to plunder or loot; qat'-al-tariq, highway robbery; and a compound expression, liss al-bahr, sea robber, that has an equivalent in Persian, duzd darya'i. The closest approximation to "privateering" is reference to plunder in the context of jihad, war to defend or extend Islam. 19

A widely used Arabic source for research on the time and place under discussion here is al-Fath al-Mubin, written in the nineteenth century from the Omani perspective by Ibn Ruzayq. 20 He includes some of the same incidents that, in British sources, were labeled piracy. Foremost of these were hostilities between Oman and the Qasimi tribal group of what is now the United Arab Emirates, hostilities discussed in the second case study. In Ibn Ruzayq's descriptions, several Arabic triliteral roots recur: gh-s-b, to seize by force; n-h-b, to plunder or pillage; and f-s-d, to undermine, ruin, or demoralize, as in so-and-so [End Page 300] "undermined [security of] the sea route." 21 Other roots are: h-j-m, to pounce upon, to assail, or to trespass; '-dh-b, to afflict, to torment; gh-z-w, to raid (from which are formed the nouns ghazwa, a raid, and ghazi, a warrior, often used as a synonym for mujahid, holy warrior); and f-t-h, which often means to open, but also can mean to conquer or to liberate from an oppressor. 22 Ibn Ruzayq uses these terms in his accounts of violence by land and by sea. His specific choices suggest a value judgment distinguishing between actions of enemies and actions of his compatriot Omanis. Enemies plunder and torment. Omanis raid and conquer.

Might Ibn Ruzayq have ignored or been unaware of an established Arabic equivalent to the English "pirate?" While this is possible, the earlier sources for this region make it seem highly unlikely. The famous traveler Ibn Battuta, an Arabic-speaking North African, recorded his extensive fourteenth-century journeys by land and sea through much of Asia and the Indian Ocean. He himself was the victim of maritime violence more than once, when he happened to be a passenger aboard merchant vessels that were attacked. Whether he describes bandit gangs in the interior of India or a robber ship at sea, he most often uses two triliteral roots. One is q-t-l, the basic meaning of which is to kill. 23 The other is kh-r-j, with the preposition 'ala, literally, to go out against, to attack. 24 A reader can infer immorality, though not explicit illegality, from the context he provides, describing his own fear and inconvenience. Closer in time and place to Ibn Ruzayq than Ibn Battuta is a Yemeni chronicler who describes Omani maritime depredations during the last third of the seventeenth century. The chronicler tells us that Omani "rabble" or "scoundrels" (awbash) regularly targeted Indian merchant vessels at the entrance to Mocha's harbor, creating "disaster" or "havoc" ('ath). 25 These examples indicate a broad vocabulary for violence--not necessarily maritime violence--and suggest that vocabulary choices were idiosyncratic. [End Page 301]

The Ottoman empire dominated Ibn Ruzayq's Islamic world. From the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, the Ottomans were largely responsible for diplomatic correspondence between the Middle East and Europe. They had negotiated and renegotiated trade agreements with Italian city-states, France, and England (later Britain). Resulting documents promised protection from maritime depredation. The Ottoman Turkish versions of these documents often expressed this in a positive way, as a promise of "safety and security," amn va aman, both words from an Arabic root. 26 Two related terms were borrowed and transliterated from the Italian corsaro (from the Latin, "to run," mentioned earlier), as qursan (corsair or pirate) and qarsana (piracy). This borrowing appears to have occurred in the fifteenth century. 27 The very borrowing of a European term into both Ottoman Turkish and Arabic helps substantiate the claim that no single Arabic word bore sufficient equivalency to the English "pirate."

First Case, 1690-1720

The first case study involves numerous events along the west central coast of India and in the Persian Gulf area during the thirty-year block of time at the beginning of my long eighteenth century. The context necessary for understanding the events is twofold: (1) an ongoing conflict between the Mughal empire and the Marathas in India and (2) the realignment of local power and alliances in the wake of Portuguese decline in the entire region. The Marathas, culturally related Hindu tribal groups of the Deccan who were organized into a confederation, resisted Mughal imperial claims over their territory. In order to help finance their administration and their military campaigns, the Marathas sought commercial revenues at coastal outlets, hoping to compete with the major Mughal port of Surat. To that end, they formed temporary alliances with various neighbors. One such ally (between about 1690 and 1730) was the last significant Portuguese merchants' enclave in the region, at Goa. The Portuguese were a logical choice for the Marathas because the Mughal enemy had earlier enlisted the assistance [End Page 302] of locally stationed English and Dutch ships in exchange for trade privileges at Mughal ports. The Marathas knew well that the English and Dutch wasted no affection on the Portuguese. The Marathas made another ephemeral alliance, at about the same time, with an ambitious local mariner, Kanhoji Angre. Kanhoji's family members vaunted roots in Rajistan and pure Rajputi blood, thereby laying claim to a strong military tradition. In their adopted home along the Konkan coastal plain of west central India, some of them had become mariners. Kanhoji hired out his own fleet to the Maratha "navy," a collection of numerous but very small vessels. 28 Kanhoji's fleet, including large ships and heavy guns, was the centerpiece of the Maratha maritime force. In 1690, Kanhoji received the title of commander or admiral (Persian, sarkhil) of this force and claimed from the Maratha state a stipend called chaut (or chauth; Persian, charhar yak, one-fourth). This was a common, traditional payment for military service, and specifically referred to twenty-five percent of state income. Chaut was granted to individuals who provided crucial military assistance to a state, much like a privateer's share of enemy booty in exchange for assistance to a European navy. 29

Lack of details about Kanhoji's loyalties and objectives generates some confusion about his status. Was he under the control of the Maratha regime or did he act on his own? 30 The best answer seems to be that he grew increasingly independent from, but remained basically aligned with, the Maratha confederation. There is specific evidence of his growing independence. On at least one occasion, he feigned Maratha orders when seizing territory for himself. He took sides in a Maratha succession struggle. He also had a falling out with a Maratha governor of Kolaba, a port near Bombay, and emerged from that conflict as the single most powerful individual along the Konkan coast. 31 He eventually controlled ports from Kolaba south to Gherieh, that is, the [End Page 303] coastal area between Bombay and Goa as well as the fertile agricultural plain between the Western Ghats and the sea. 32 Some of the Konkan ports he took from Sidis, mariners of a Muslim Abyssinian ethnic group, who remained potential rivals. The Sidis at times allied with the Mughals and together they attempted to make inroads into Kanhoji's Konkan territory. To maintain his new coastal acquisitions, Kanhoji had to finance a large number of vessels with his chaut. Kanhoji's method of acquiring chaut was direct: his forces sporadically seized cargoes and vessels belonging to merchants who came near Konkan ports. The merchants' perceptions of this must have been very close to the English definition of "piracy." 33

A contemporary observer in the region was Clement Downing, an employee of the English East India Company who witnessed a British naval campaign against Kanhoji (1717-18). Downing's account of the campaign includes a few errors in dates and in names of military units, mistakes that cast some doubt on his reporting skills. Since there is scant information on Kanhoji, however, Downing's views are of interest. It is likely that he used local oral sources and company records. 34

According to Downing, Kanhoji became increasingly daring over the course of his early career. Starting with few boats and men, he took from the Sidis a rocky island called Khanderi, located about ten miles south of Bombay harbor. From this base, he seized local fishing boats and a few small, armed vessels. To increase his manpower, he "borrowed" some sailors from Maratha service. He and his men overpowered a Portuguese ship and added it to the fleet. 35 They also took a large Bengali-owned ship as it sailed between Surat and Bombay. 36 Kanhoji acquired cash by taking hostages for ransom. For example, his men seized an East India Company yacht sailing out of Bombay, which was carrying the newly appointed head of the company's trade establishment at Karwar. The official was killed in the attack and his wife was captured. Kanhoji kept the yacht as a prize and received a hefty thirty thousand rupees for the safe return of the English woman. 37 [End Page 304] Downing's main concerns were to describe and to justify the EIC campaign; not surprisingly, therefore, his information about captures of English and other European vessels is far more complete and detailed than it is for capture of regional vessels. Perhaps for this reason, that is, the particular bias of Downing, some historians of India have focused on the European rather than on the local victims, thereby depicting Kanhoji as a champion of Indian resistance to European imperialism. 38 Downing's overall evidence, however, suggests nothing further than a man who was looking out for his own best interests.

In Downing's account, the older, established Kanhoji comes across as the rough equivalent of a European privateer, due to his working relationship with the more powerful Marathas. Downing describes Kanhoji as indiscriminate in his violence--part of the European concept of piracy--and he does often refer to "Angria the Pyrate." He also comments more than once, however, and with approval, that Kanhoji abided by his recent agreement not to attack vessels that held passes issued by the East India Company's governor of Bombay. Perhaps begrudging this approbation, Downing quickly adds that Kanhoji would routinely go after vessels with passes issued by the company governors of Madras and Calcutta, with whom Kanhoji had no agreements. 39 When the Dutch asked for the return of a ship seized in 1703, Kanhoji refused, saying he had no agreement with the Dutch. 40

Kanhoji shared the spotlight of fame and notoriety with other regional mariners, particularly those from Oman, who may require an introduction. The merchants of southeastern Arabia included local Arabs, some Persians, and temporarily or permanently relocated South Asians. Their ports were Muscat, Suhar, and Sur. Between 1507 and 1649, the Portuguese dominated the Omani coast and used its ports to their own advantage. After the Omanis had reasserted control, they began an aggressive chase after Portuguese vessels along the coasts of southern Arabia, eastern Africa, and western India. As an indirect result, by the 1680s, mariners from the Omani coast developed a regional reputation for commerce mixed with violence. Omani attacks against Portuguese vessels and cargoes could readily be construed as retaliatory warfare. Some Omani depredation, however, was indiscriminate. An attack on an East India Company vessel in 1705 prompted [End Page 305] the comment that "Muskat . . . is become a Terror to all the trading people of India." 41 Another East India Company employee reported: "[Omanis] made descents on several towns on [India's west] Coast, both to obtain plunder and a fixed station, from which they might annoy trade, or resist the Mogul or Muratha fleets, or even the more powerful vessels of the European nations." 42 One of several reported "descents" illustrates the Omani reputation. In 1690, Omanis seized a large Indian-owned vessel in the approach to one of the ports in Maratha territory. The East India Company official who reported the incident to Bombay saw it as evidence of Muscat's increasingly "outrageous" behavior. 43 The consistent gist of such reports appears to outbalance any tendency of the EIC officials toward hyperbole.

Within two decades of the last-mentioned event, that is, by about 1710, Kanhoji Angre controlled Konkan and its maritime approaches. After that, trade between Oman and India continued, but the ability of Omani mariners to act freely in the area diminished rapidly. Soon two zones of maritime dominance could be distinguished, both in regional and European records--the one of Kanhoji, described earlier, and the one of Omanis. 44 The latter included the southern Arabian coast, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf. Kanhoji's success had pushed Omanis north, back into their home waters.

In the Gulf area, competition was fierce among several merchant principalities for control over maritime trade. Omani participation in this competition was described as non-specific--therefore, by implication, as criminal, against all civilized people--by a British commercial agent working at Mocha in 1721. The company's government at Bombay asked this agent if it might be possible for Dutch merchants to recover cargo from a ship of theirs that had been attacked off Suhar on the Omani coast. The Mocha agent replied: "[There] is no hope of obtaining any Satisfaction, as all the People along [Oman's] coast [End Page 306] quite up to Muscatt, live upon Plunder, and seize all they can overpower, be [their victims] of What Nation whatsoever." 45 At the end of the eighteenth century, the British would have a strikingly different perspective on Oman, described in the second case study.

The British measured the activities of Kanhoji and contemporary Omani mariners against that of European "pirates." Since European companies generally had a monopoly on all national trade in Asia, a number of these European "pirates" might better be categorized as interlopers, that is, independent merchants who operated outside the law of their country's company charter. Merchants and administrations from the region had understandable difficulty distinguishing employees ("servants") of the companies from interlopers and/or pirates. For this reason, the English company had to try to convey to the dominant Indian state, the Mughal empire, the British concept of piracy.

An early attempt to convey this legal nuance followed attacks on the shipping of a wealthy, influential Mughal subject, Abd al-Ghafur. In 1691, he complained to his ruler, Aurangzeb, that one of his ships had been taken by English mariners. Investigation identified these particular culprits as Danish, but Abd al-Ghafur argued that, since most culpable mariners were English, the English East India Company had to take responsibility for all of them. 46 An important context for his argument was the increasing competition from the EIC: the English had long maintained a trade establishment ("factory") at Mughal Surat, but were more visible at Bombay, a small port acquired from Portugal in the 1660s. Under EIC influence, Bombay had begun to challenge the regional commercial supremacy of Surat, a situation that could only elicit annoyance from Mughal merchants such as Abd al-Ghafur and that annoyance, in turn, helps explain Aurangzeb's harsh, negative attitude toward the English.

The next attempt to transmit the concept of piracy came in 1695, when an Englishman called Henry Avery (also Every, Evory, Avory; a.k.a. Henry Bridgman and John Avery) took two large Mughal ships. 47 One of the ships belonged to Aurangzeb himself; it had been carrying Muslim pilgrims on their return from Mecca, as well as valuable cargo. [End Page 307] Rumors spread that some pilgrims had been killed and some women violated. At the ship's home port, Surat, angry locals tried to lynch any available English merchants, on the assumption that Avery's attack was somehow sponsored, condoned, or facilitated by the East India Company. The Mughal governor of Surat intervened to prevent lynching, but he also ordered his troops to occupy the East India Company's establishments in Surat and nearby Suwali, to incarcerate their sixty-three employees, and to stop their trade. The English governor of Bombay, Sir John Gayer, had to plead with Mughal officials in both Surat and Delhi for nearly a year before the employees were freed. Gayer tried to dissociate company employees from Avery, arguing, "we are merchants, not pirates." 48 Aurangzeb was unimpressed. Finally, Gayer was able to reestablish trade by offering to hire out two English ships to the Mughals as protective convoy for pilgrim vessels of Surat. 49 In the meantime, Avery and his crew had sailed off safely to the Bahamas.

Yet another EIC attempt to convey the legal definition of piracy had to do with the exploits of Captain Kidd. William Kidd began a maritime merchant career in the Caribbean. Seeking a faster way to make his fortune, in 1695 he entered into a business deal with the impoverished Earl of Bellomont, who was soon to become colonial governor of New York. Bellomont obtained for Kidd commissions as a privateer from the English Admiralty. The commissions allowed Kidd to seize French vessels (France and England were at war) and, ironically, to seize any "pirates" he happened to find. 50 He obtained a ship and crew, and sailed off to the Indian Ocean, where he expected French and perhaps pirate targets to be plentiful. By August of 1697, however, his attempts at privateering had proven woefully inadequate even to maintain his ship and crew, much less to satisfy hopes of winning fortunes for himself and Bellomont. Kidd then exceeded the terms of his commissions. Among his new targets was the Quedah Merchant, out of Surat, a royal Mughal ship with an English captain. Kidd's attack was especially ill timed because the Avery incident was still fresh in the mind of the Mughal ruler. Aurangzeb ordered the English, Dutch, and French factories at Surat to be closed. The factories were allowed to trade again only after all three European governments paid heavy compensation as "gifts." The Europeans also agreed both to provide convoy for Mughal vessels sailing between various regional ports [End Page 308] and to sign security bonds against future such losses. 51 EIC arguments to the Mughals that Kidd had turned pirate, and was now operating on his own authority, simply did not make any difference. The company's frustration over this incident helped bring about Kidd's trial in London a few years later. He was convicted on charges of piracy and hanged.

Officially, to the East India Company, Kanhoji was a pirate, a criminal, like William Kidd. Several attacks by Kanhoji's forces, described above, do seem to fit the English legal definition of piracy, a definition that hinged on the absence of either a privateer commission or a declaration of war. 52 Kanhoji had neither. Furthermore, his targets were opportune and eclectic, though not always indiscriminate. His activities--and, after his death in 1729, the activities of other members of the extended Angre family--led to the formal establishment of the East India Company's Bombay Marine in 1754. Prior to the Angre challenge, the marine had been a small, discontinuous, ad hoc affair, dating back to 1613. 53 Thus, maritime behavior classified as criminal was the rationale for building up additional British naval force.

Kanhoji himself, his Maratha ally, and his Mughal enemy did not share the English legal definition of maritime violence. What was important to Kanhoji was the existence or absence of personal non-aggression agreements. While Kanhoji probably viewed himself as ruler over a coastal state, his agreement with the company's governor of Bombay was not understood by anyone to be between sovereign entities. This circumstance rendered irrelevant the British concern with the sovereign right to declare war and thereby preclude the label "piracy" between legitimate combatants.

Second Case, 1790-1820

The second case of concentrated maritime violence, by my definition, occurred in the Gulf area and, like the first, covered a period of about thirty years, closing out a long eighteenth century. This example involved the Qawasim (or Qasimis, with an English plural s), a group [End Page 309] of Arab tribesmen inhabiting the traditional province of al-Sir that runs along the Musandam Peninsula, facing the Gulf. This area constitutes part of what is now known as the United Arab Emirates but which was dubbed the "Pirate Coast" by the eighteenth-century British. The main port and political center was Ra's al-Khayma. Among several other ports under Qasimi control were Sharja and, across the Gulf on the Persian coast, Linga. The Qasimi leaders were involved in maritime competition in the Gulf area and along the Makran coast of what is now Pakistan. This maritime competition blended into territorial rivalry with neighboring Omanis who claimed al-Sir as their own.

Beginning in 1798, Bombay had courted friendship with the government of Oman, seeking an ally who shared an interest in stability. 54 Oman was the obvious choice because, by the 1790s, that country's rulers and merchants had developed their own vested interest in law and order. They had recently built up the largest indigenous, regional fleet, consisting of dozens of dhows and a few European-style ships. The large fleet intimidated rivals and also provided security in convoy. Omanis established dominance over Gulf trade with both western India and east Africa. 55 Oman's location afforded the opportunity for physical control over the narrow Gulf entrance, which meant that Omanis could assist or hinder British Indian commerce in the Gulf. They were also in a position to restrict Gulf access to British competitors, the French and Dutch in particular, a situation highly desirable to the British at Bombay, who were quick to include this objective in exclusive "friendship" agreements with Oman's ruler. 56 For Oman, the advantage of the relationship with Bombay was potential assistance against enemies.

Because the British chose to befriend Oman, they found themselves in a necessarily adversarial relationship with Oman's closest enemies, the Qawasim. The first Qasimi attack on an EIC vessel occurred in 1797. Increasingly frequent attacks were a significant issue by 1810, and elicited from EIC employees the same sort of rhetoric that had been used a century earlier to describe Omani activity. One agent wrote of the Qawasim: "It is vain to expect any restitution or redress [End Page 310] from these lawless banditti who show such little regard or respect to the laws established by all civilized communities." 57

The population along the Gulf's shore had long depended on fishing, pearling, and trade for subsistence living. Gulf area historians have generally assumed that maritime violence occurred during times of economic stress. Over the course of the mid- to late eighteenth century, the Qawasim had watched Oman increase its hold over Gulf trade, a situation that could only inflame further their dispute over territory. An explanation for Qasimi maritime violence, however, is more complex than their poverty relative to Oman.

As in the case of Kanhoji's relationship with the Marathas, there is a lingering controversy about Qasimi autonomy. The best answer in Kanhoji's case is that he had considerable autonomy and was only generally aligned with Maratha interests, particularly the interest to resist Mughal expansion. Did Qasimi mariners always operate on their own behalf or were they ever under the control of the Wahhabis who eventually established the Saudi Kingdom?

The Wahhabis arose in the mid-eighteenth century in central Arabia, combining an ideology of radical, resurgent Islam with the tribal strength of the Su'ud clan. They are also called the Muwahhidun, those who emphasize the unity of God. They sought to expand throughout the peninsula and beyond, hoping to spread their beliefs to the rest of the Islamic world. Their biggest obstacle was the Ottoman Empire because it administered southern Iraq, the Hijaz Province in the west central portion of Arabia and, sometimes, parts of eastern Arabia as well, creating barriers to Wahhabi expansion. The Wahhabis ran afoul of the Ottomans in 1803 by seizing the Hijaz, including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Military forces of Ottoman Egypt spent the years between 1811 and 1818 evicting the Wahhabis from the Hijaz and pushing them back into the central part of the peninsula (where they waited until after the First World War to conquer Arabia again). To the east, the Wahhabis already had a presence in the coastal Hasa Province that runs between the Qatar Peninsula and the port of Kuwait. During the period from approximately 1800 through 1813, the Wahhabis made efforts to expand into southeastern Arabia as well. The Qawasim were unable to resist them. As early as 1803 and certainly by 1807, the Wahhabis dominated al-Sir; soon they were able to handpick a cooperative Qasimi governor at Ra's al-Khayma (one [End Page 311] Hasan b. Rahma). They were able to elicit at least outward signs of conversion to their doctrines, to damage the trade of resistant Oman, and--most telling--to take a share of Qasimi booty. Oman was better able than al-Sir to resist a takeover, although for several years, 1808-13, the Wahhabis and the Qawasim cooperated with a dissident faction in Oman in order to undermine the country's leadership. Also, Wahhabi preachers were observed in Oman's principal port of Muscat, and the Qawasim took the upper hand in their ongoing border war. 58 The Wahhabi-Qasimi challenge to Oman remained viable well into 1819.

The questions of interest here are: Did the Wahhabis control Qasimi maritime violence? How did participants dispute the concept of maritime violence? One writer on Gulf history, Sultan Muhammad al-Qasimi, a descendent of the al-Sir tribal group being discussed and ruler of the emirate of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, claims that there is not a shred of evidence that the Muwahhidun "encouraged and supported all so-called 'pirates' in the Gulf." 59 While it may be true that the Wahhabis did not micromanage Qasimi activity, they benefited directly from it by taking an overlord's share of maritime booty. In Islamic law, this would be a one-fifth share. (Kanhoji, it will be remembered, in a very different power relationship with his overlords, the Marathas, had demanded--or rather just took--what he considered was a fourth [chaut] of Maratha income.)

Reports of what the British considered piracy against all targets increased significantly during the time when the Wahhabis exerted political dominance in Qasimi territory. 60 When asked by a British envoy about their role in "piracy," the Wahhabis explicitly denied that they ever condoned attacks against vessels under British protection. The Wahhabi ruler, 'Abd Allah b. Su'ud, sent a letter dated October 1814 to William Bruce, British Resident at the Persian port at Abu Shihr, saying:

You are well acquainted that I have never authorized either the Joasmees [Qasimis] or any other tribes to molest or interrupt any of your [End Page 312] people. Your letter [complaining about such molestation] reached me at the time that Hassan bin Rehma the Ameer of the Joasmee was in attendance, the purport of which was made known to him. He replied that to his knowledge no property of the English had been taken by him. I have now directed him to write to you that whatever property can be proved against him he is to deliver up to you. 61

'Abd Allah closed this letter by asking Bruce to "let me know who are your subjects and their distinguishing marks." Such specificity in the denial opens up the possibility that attacks on all other targets may have been tolerated or even encouraged by them as overlords. In November 1816, 'Abd Allah wrote another letter to Bruce, employing the language of holy war:

I give my word that all British subjects will be free from molestation at the hands of all Muslims [that is, Wahhabis, the only true Muslims in 'Abd Allah's way of thinking]; but as to the people of Egypt and Jeddah, Yeman, [Abu] Shihr and Mukalla, Muscat, Basra and Iraq, and the Persian subjects of Sa'id b. Sultan [ruler of Muscat in Oman who claimed ports on the Persian side of the Gulf], all these are our enemies and whenever we come across them, we seek God's help in fighting them and plundering their property. . . . 62

The issue of Wahhabi control over the Qawasim begs a question about motives for maritime violence. Desperation resulting from economic stress is an incomplete explanation for Qasimi activity. The Wahhabis very likely used their share of Qasimi booty for maintaining a tribal state in which the Qawasim participated to some extent. The main investment for the years 1811-18 was probably the military defense against the Ottoman Egyptians. What the British called piracy was both a show-of-force against Oman and also an effective way to generate state income. This scenario is similar to that of Kanhoji in his ports of western India. The Wahhabis were up against the Ottomans while Kanhoji, in his time, had been up against the Mughal empire; both tried to carve out and maintain independent political and economic entities.

While his dismissal of Wahhabi influence over maritime violence [End Page 313] might be far less than convincing, al-Qasimi offers a more intriguing line of argument about British political perceptions of "piracy." He says that, in order to justify protecting the Omanis, the British went so far as to attribute to the Qawasim acts of plunder that had actually been carried out by others, even by Omanis themselves. 63 Recently, Charles E. Davies has retraced al-Qasimi's archival steps and published a detailed refutation of this claim, putting the blame back on the Qawasim and, indirectly, on the Wahhabis. 64 This particular debate may well continue, but it serves to direct attention to political perceptions.

Bombay perceived Qasimi attacks against EIC vessels within the context of a Wahhabi-Qasimi threat to Oman. The British were reluctant to take on the Wahhabis, an effort that would have required a protracted land campaign in Arabia itself; they were, however, willing to have a go at the coastal Qawasim. For rhetorical purposes, they identified a single source of maritime malfeasance. In 1809, when Oman was most vulnerable, Bombay was engaged in conflicts with the Marathas in India and sent only a modest naval expedition into the Gulf. The orders were to fire upon ports known to be under Qasimi control. The resulting deterrent effect was, however, short-lived, and Qasimi attacks against the Omanis and the EIC resumed within about three years.

The British situation in India, meanwhile, was solidifying and soon resources would be free to deal effectively with the Gulf situation. In west central India, the new Bombay Marine had quickly defeated the successor Angres. The British temporarily curbed Maratha ambition in 1782 through a treaty. They defeated the ruler of Mysore in 1799. Finally, they put an end to resurgent Marathas in 1818.

In the same year as closure of the Maratha issue, Ottoman Egyptian forces delivered their major setback to the Wahhabis. The coincident timing gilded an opportune moment. British Bombay organized a much larger naval expedition than that of 1809 and carried out a focused, decisive strike against Ra's al-Khayma in late 1819. 65 [End Page 314]

At the close of hostilities, the British and several local rulers signed a document called the General Treaty of Peace (1820), later extended through the Perpetual Maritime Truce of 1853, and by other agreements with individual rulers. 66 The "Pirate Coast" became the "Trucial Coast." Most of the treaties also suggested the exchange of envoys and expressed vague promises of protection for Gulf Arab merchants at British Indian ports. These additions were made in hopes of increasing British access to regional trade while at the same time encouraging legitimate trade for the "pacificated tribes." The amirs of the Trucial Coast derived an indirect benefit from this treaty relationship. Under British protection, they were able to maintain independence from the emerging Wahhabi-Su'udi state, and later chose to join the United Arab Emirates.

The Treaty of 1820 provided for mutual commitment not to abide either "piracy" (left undefined) or the killing of captives. Article 9 of the treaty extended the meaning of this provision to include the maritime slave trade, a trade that was of significant economic value to the Gulf signatories. From the British point of view, Article 9 emphasized illegality: piracy and the slave trade were linked because they were both illegal maritime activities. Also, the British had experienced close connections between piracy and slaving at, for example, Madagascar and Sierra Leone, where slaves were considered to be highly lucrative booty. According to the British officer who wrote the English original of the treaty, the signatory shaykhs were amused by the linkage of piracy and slave trading because they knew that Oman was more deeply involved in slaving than any of them. The ruler of Oman, who had the treaty explained to him orally, was in fact displeased by that particular provision. 67 It seems reasonable to assume that Oman's ruler and the other local leaders would have viewed linkage with slave trading as an arbitrary redefinition of piracy, qarsana, a word that had been borrowed in the first place.

Is this second case study about "piracy"? English and Arabic sources on maritime violence between the Qawasim and Omanis between about 1790 and 1819 agree that acts fitting the British legal definition of piracy took place but they do not agree on which incidents qualify. Any "piracy" that did occur was camouflaged by ongoing hostilities. The introduction of Wahhabi influence, by 1803 or 1807, changed the [End Page 315] situation but did not clarify it. The number of incidents that the British considered to be piracy escalated. Wahhabi rhetoric suggests that the escalation constituted holy war, as the Wahhabis set out to convert the Muslims around them to "true" Islam. Wahhabi actions suggest the use of booty from Qasimi maritime violence in campaigns against neighboring principalities and especially against the Ottomans, as 'Abd Allah and his successors tried to build a state. What is most clear in the second case study is that the British, now a strong, territorial power in the region, were able to use the term piracy any way they saw fit.


In an English language context, the word "pirate" evokes the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in particular, when there was a high concentration of Atlantic-Caribbean maritime violence. This concentration is usually explained by three factors: the temptation to target Spanish treasure ships, the general expansion of European shipping, and large naval layoffs after the War of Spanish Succession ended in 1713. 68 Atlantic-Caribbean "piracy" eventually crystallized into romanticized villainy and rumors of buried treasure. Quite unromantically, some recent social historians suggest that Euro-American "pirates" were attempting to reallocate commercial wealth in the face of formidable maritime governmental institutions, such as the Royal Navy and western European trading companies. 69

In the western Indian Ocean and Gulf region, activity that the British called "piracy" was never linguistically separated from generic maritime violence. It could never crystallize into a romantic stereotype. Customary maritime practices and local formal laws were quite precise about situations such as fishing rights, salvage, and commercial contracts but did not explicitly differentiate between warfare and indiscriminate maritime violence. In order to convey the legalistic concept of piracy, Arabic and the languages influenced by Arabic vocabulary borrowed European terminology.

My explanation for this linguistic difference begins with consideration of the relative importance placed on maritime power by the British on the one hand and the Mughals and Ottomans on the other. The [End Page 316] British Isles could not sustain an empire without a large navy to extend their economy and power. Rulers of India and the Middle East were, as a rule, deeply invested in land-based power. Although both the Mughal and Ottoman empires had some naval forces and merchant ships during the eighteenth century, they lacked the maritime resources necessary to police the western Indian Ocean-Gulf region as the British did in areas of the Atlantic and Caribbean.

Premised on this lack of sufficient imperial maritime commitment or force, a comparison of Kanhoji's coastal enclave and Wahhabi expansion in Arabia provide one tentative conclusion about political motivation. In both cases, at least some maritime booty appears to have been reinvested in state-building activity. Although the extended Angre family constituted a problem for the Mughals, the Angres were not defeated until the establishment of the British Bombay Marine in 1754. It was the British, not the Ottomans, who sent naval expeditions into the Gulf to curb Wahhabi-Qasimi maritime violence. Before British intervention, both Kanhoji's coastal state and the Wahhabi theocracy had some leeway for territorial and political growth.

More convincing than this tentative conclusion about "piracy" for state-building purposes is a conclusion concerning perceptions of maritime violence. The two thirty-year blocks of time offer insight into the use of political rhetoric to discredit competitors or enemies. Characterizations of enemies were not likely to be accurate, but did well serve rhetorical purposes: intensification of diplomatic pressure and, in the case of the British, justification of naval force. Thus, the Mughal administration was incorrect, in 1698, to lump William Kidd with European companies' employees, but doing so justified exacting large compensations from the English, French, and Dutch governments. Aurangzeb regarded Kidd not as an individual criminal but as a player in European commercial competition that was beginning to have an adverse effect on the Mughal port of Surat. The East India Company at Bombay was perhaps deliberately incorrect in attributing Gulf warfare and depredation to the Qawasim without also indicting the Wahhabis, but doing so made it easier and cheaper for the British to protect a new relationship with strategically located Oman.

British suppression of "piracy" had considerable impact. The focused naval campaign of 1819 led to the first of several useful treaty mechanisms. One effect of the treaty system was to preclude further Wahhabi expansion along the Gulf coast, leaving only the Hasa Province to become part of Saudi Arabia. The treaty system also linked together trade and British responsibility for Gulf security, a linkage that provided the British with more political and economic leverage [End Page 317] in the region. Thus, in the earlier block, 1690 to 1720, the EIC failed to convince the Mughal ruler that the English legal definition of piracy was universal and absolute. By 1790-1820, changed circumstances afforded the opportunity for the British to impose on the Gulf region their definition of piracy through force and treaty relationships. They were able to impose their own cultural norm.

Did rhetoric mask differing perceptions of substantially similar behaviors? I believe so. Selective British use of the term "piracy" was no more accurate than any relativistic or anti-imperial insistence that the phenomenon existed only in Euro-American circumstances. The lack of an Arabic word for "piracy" does not suggest or prove that the phenomenon did not exist in the region; it indicates only that the cultural value placed on indiscriminate maritime violence was not significant enough to generate a consistent term.

Although there was no specific local term that conveyed what the British meant by piracy, and although the British themselves calculated the use and misuse of the term, behavior fitting their legal definition did exist in the Indian Ocean-Gulf region. Historians who defend Kanhoji against all accusations of piracy point to his adjunct position with the Maratha confederation, a position that lent him legitimacy. 70 Even Downing grudgingly admired what he considered Kanhoji's quasi-privateer ethic. 71 Kanhoji, however, often functioned in his own best interests and with considerable autonomy. William Kidd had commissions that gave him explicit privateer status but he chose to exceed this authority. At his trial in London in 1701, Kidd pointed to his commissions and his original orders from the admiralty as his essential defense to charges of piracy, even though his Indian Ocean targets were not at war with England. 72 Both Kanhoji and Kidd [End Page 318] perpetrated some acts that fit the British legal definition of piracy, regardless of terminology and regardless of what else they did. The same is true of a number of Omanis, Qawasim, Europeans, and others in the region not dealt with in this paper. 73

Much British interpretation of maritime violence is the result of looking at political, economic, and social factors in maritime violence through a lens of moral absolutism. Many revisionist interpretations use a lens of moral relativism. Taken together, these interpretations go a long way to delineate a cross-cultural misunderstanding. Another way to say this is that the two historiographical approaches described earlier in this essay make it possible to lay out differences in perceptions and assign blame in one direction or the other. They fall short, however, of explaining the differences. Analyses of differing perceptions of maritime violence should be based on interconnected political, economic, and social factors, but also--as this essay has attempted to demonstrate--on cultural factors, including the vocabulary and conceptualizations of maritime violence, and the rhetoric of maritime competition.


1. J. G. Lorimer, Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, 'Oman, and Central Arabia, 2 vols., 5 parts (Gregg 1970 reprint of original Calcutta edition, 1908-15).

2. C. R. Low, History of the Indian Navy (1613-1863), 2 vols. (London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1877).

3. On gh-z-w applied to maritime contexts, see S. Soucek, "Milaha," part 2, in Encyclopedia of Islam, 2d edition (= E. I. 2), (Leiden: E. J. Brill).

4. See, for example, Charles Belgrave, The Pirate Coast (New York: Roy Publishers, 1966); J. B. Kelly, Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1795-1880 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968). See also Charles E. Davies, The Blood-Red Arab Flag: An Investigation into Qasimi Piracy 1797-1820 (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1997), p. 252 regarding the Portuguese and p. 263 regarding ghazwa.

5. Muhammad Morsy Abdullah, Imarat al-sahil wa 'Uman wa al-dawla al-Su'udiyya al-awla, 1793-1818 (Cairo: al-Maktab al-Misri al-Hadith, 1978), pp. 247-78.

6. Robert G. Landen, Oman Since 1856: Disruptive Modernization in a Traditional Arab Society (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967), pp. 131-48.

7. Henry A. Ormerod, Piracy in the Ancient World (Chicago: Argonaut, 1967 reprint of 1924 edition), pp. 59-61.

8. St. Augustine, The City of God, trans. Marcus Dods (New York: The Modern Library, 1950), book 4, p. 113.

9. E.g., Noam Chomsky, Pirates and Emperor: International Terrorism in the Real World (New York: Claremont Research and Publications, 1986), p. 1.

10. William G. T. Shedd, ed., The Complete Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1853), vol. 6, Table Talk, entry for 17 March 1832.

11. Marcus Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates, and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700-1750 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), pp. 267 and 281; pp. 262-64. Eric J. Hobsbawm, Bandits (New York: Delacorte Press, 1969).

12. J. J. S. Wharton, Law Lexicon, or Dictionary of Jurisprudence. 2d London edition, with additions, by Edward Hopper (Philadelphia: Kay & Brother, 1869). In other editions I consulted, I found only minor variations in the wording of the 'piracy' definition.

13. S. Charles Hill, "Episodes of Piracy in the Eastern Sea, 1519 to 1851," part 1, Indian Antiquary, 1919, vol. 48: 159.

14. For generous help with Chinese characters, my thanks to Blaine Gaustad, SUNY-Fredonia, and also to Jonathan Porter, University of New Mexico, and to graduate student Judith Fetherston.

15. See Derk Bodde and Clarence Morris, Law in Imperial China (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), e.g., p. 57, note 13. Other Chinese terms for pirate: yangdao ("ocean" plus "thief/theft") and haifei ("sea" plus "bandit/rebel"). Wokou is a "dwarf" and "to rob," and was used in Chinese as a pejorative reference to so-called Japanese pirates in the South China Sea; in fact, many of the backers and captains were Chinese. Wokou involved some piracy, but also much illegal trade in the form of smuggling into and out of China. This occurred during commercially restrictive years of the Ming regime, the late fourteenth through the mid-sixteenth centuries. See also note 65, below. Wealthy Chinese merchants sponsored most of the smuggling, in defiance of their own government's policies. See Kwan-wai So, Japanese Piracy in Ming China during the 16th Century (Michigan State University Press, 1975).

16. A Hindi word, daadaa (dental d), for "paternal grandfather" or a title of respect for an older man, has been used colloquially for "gangster" or "bandit," on land or sea, perhaps similar to the disparate usage of "godfather" in English. See The Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary (Oxford and Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993). In Marathi and Hindi, another colloquial term for plunder by land or sea is caacegirii (c pronounced ch); the plunderer is caacaa, which means one's father's younger brother, but which is also used for "culprit" or "villain," possibly a pejorative stereotype of dependent brothers. I have no Marathi and only an introductory knowledge of Hindi, so I was dependent on colleagues for much of this information. I would like to thank especially Dr. Ranjana Damle, Sociology, Albuquerque Technical-Vocational Institute.

17. Davies, The Blood-Red Arab Flag, p. 266, offers Arabic vocabulary from Qasimi documents. His purpose, however, is to show how little can be garnered from them: "The Arabic language material in particular is not rich or necessarily representative."

18. For examples of customary and formal law see, for example, R. B. Serjeant, Customary and Shari'ah Law in Arabian Society (UK: Variorum reprint, 1991). For analogous land-maritime laws, see these articles in the Encyclopedia of Islam 2d edition: F. Vire, "Sayd" (= fisherman or hunter); Ch.-E. Dufourcq, "Fida'" (= ransom of prisoners of war) in Supplement 1-6.

19. Charles Pellet, "Kursan" (= qursan) in Encyclopedia of Islam, 2d edition (= E. I. 2), (Leiden: E. J. Brill).

20. Humayd b. Muhammad ibn Ruzayq, al-Fath al-Mubin al-mubarhin sirat al-sadat Al bu Sa'idiyyin. Cambridge University Library, Add. MS. 2892. The other well-known Arabic sources on Omani history form a pair: the anonymous Kashf al-Ghumma al-jami' li akbhar al-umma, attributed to Sirhan b. Sa'id, British Museum Ms. Or. 8076, that covers up to 1728, and the anonymous, untitled manuscript, British Museum, Add. Ms. 23.343, that covers 1728 through about 1795. The interest for the authors of these chronicles was the hinterland and tribal history rather than maritime concerns.

21. E.g., Ibn Ruzayq, al-Fath al-Mubin, folio 224b.

22. E.g., ibid., folio 194b.

23. 'Abd Allah ibn Battuta, Voyage d'ibn Battuta, texte arabe, C. Defremery and B. R. Sanguinetti, in 4 vols. (Paris: Editions Anthropos, 1979 reprint of 1854 edition). For examples of the q-t-l root, see vol. 3, p. 134; vol. 4, pp. 7 and 365.

24. Ibid. For examples of the kh-r-j root with 'ala, see vol. 3, p. 134; vol. 4, pp. 206 and 332.

25. 'Abd Allah ibn 'Ali al-Wazir, Tabaq al-halwa wa sihaf al-mann wa al-salwa, Chester Beatty MS no. 4097.27b. For a paraphrase and discussion of this chronicle, see R. B. Serjeant, "Omani Naval Activities off the Southern Arabian Coast in the Late 11th/17th Century, from Yemeni Chronicles," in his Customary and Shari'ah Law, p. 85.

26. S. A. Skilliter, William Harborne and the Trade with Turkey 1578-1582: A documentary study of the first Anglo-Ottoman relations (London: Oxford University Press, 1977), e.g., document 7, p. 215. My thanks to Professor Linda Darling, Department of History, University of Arizona, for suggesting this title to me. See also H. Inalcik, section III, "Aman" in article "Imtiyazat," in Encyclopedia of Islam, 2d edition (= E. I. 2), (Leiden: E. J. Brill).

27. Pellat, "Kursan," E. I. 2.

28. Stewart Gordon, The Marathas, 1600-1818, part 2, vol. 4 of The New Cambridge History of India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 90, n. 48.

29. C. A. Kincaid and Rao Bahadur D. B. Parasnis, A History of the Maratha People (London: Oxford University Press, 1931), pp. 171 and 206.

30. On Kanhoji's status, see Surendra Nath Sen, Early Career of Kanhoji Angria and Other Papers (Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1941), p. 26 but cf. p. 5. See also John Biddulph, The Pirates of Malabar and An Englishwoman in India Two Hundred Years Ago (Delhi: United Services Institution of India, 1992 reprint of 1907 edition), p. 76; C. R. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire (London: Hutchison & Co. Ltd., 1969), p. 137; H. G. Rawlinson, "The Rise of the Maratha Empire," chapter 14 in vol. 4, The Cambridge History of India (Delhi: S. Chand & Co., 1957), p. 394.

31. Kincaid and Parasnis, Maratha People, p. 207. On Kanhoji's involvement in a Maratha succession struggle, see Gordon, The Marathas, p. 109.

32. Kincaid and Parasnis, Maratha People, p. 207 text and note; Biddulph, The Pirates of Malabar, p. 79 text and note; also map in Biddulph, opposite p. 119.

33. Kincaid and Parasnis, Maratha People, pp. 235-36.

34. Clement Downing, A Compendius History of the Indian Wars; with an account of the Rise, Progress, Strength, and Forces of Angria the Pirate . . . (London: T. Cooper, 1737). On Downing's sources, see the anonymous "Note to the Reader," contemporary with original publication, pp. iii-iv.

35. Ibid., p. 6.

36. Ibid., pp. 24-25.

37. Ibid., pp. 8-9; Kincaid and Parasnis, Maratha People, p. 236.

38. E. g., K. M. Panikkar, Asia and Western Dominance: A Survey of the Vasco Da Gama Epoch of Asian History, 1498-1945 (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1953), p. 74. See also note 70, below.

39. Downing, Indian Wars, pp. 20-22.

40. Sen, Kanhoji Angria, pp. 27-28.

41. Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India (London, 1711), p. 206.

42. India Office Records (IOR), London, Government of India, "Selections" V/23/217, p. 169.

43. Henry Gary of Bombay, letter to EIC dated 16 January 1677, in W. Hedges, The Diary of William Hedges Esq., during his Agency in Bengal, as well as his voyage out and return overland (1681-1687), edited by R. Barlow and H. Yule, 3 vols. (London: Hakluyt Society, 1887-89), vol. 2, p. 327. Henry Gary compares Muscatis to "Vadhels," (Alexander Hamilton's "Warrels") who were other 'pirates' along the western coast of India.

44. See, for example, the text and especially the footnotes of R. D. Bathurst, "Maritime trade and Imamate government: two principal themes in the History of Oman to 1728," in Derek Hopwood, ed., The Arabian Peninsula: Society and Politics (London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd.), pp. 99-104.

45. IOR, Egypt and the Red Sea, G/17/1 part 1, #29, folio 53a, dated 20 July 1721.

46. Robert C. Ritchie, Captain Kidd and the War against the Pirates (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 131.

47. A contemporary account of this seizure is offered by Muhammad Kashim ("Khafi Khan") in his al-Muntakhab al-Lubab, translated in H. M. Elliot and John Dawson, The History of India as told by its own Historians, vol. 7, p. 350 (corresponding to vol. 2, p. 421 of the manuscript). See also Low, Indian Navy, vol. 1, p. 79, note.

48. Jadunath Sarkar, "Aurangzeb (1658-1681)," ch. 8 in vol. 4, The Cambridge History of India (Delhi: S. Chand & Co., 1957), p. 310.

49. Low, Indian Navy, vol. 1, p. 80.

50. Ritchie, Captain Kidd, pp. 53, 61, 75-79, 89.

51. Low, Indian Navy, vol. 1, pp. 81-82.

52. A good example of the declared war proviso: In 1697, Captain Charles Perrin of the EIC ship Thankful reported an attack by Marathas (referred to as "Sevajees," even though it was long after the death of the leader Shivaji). Perrin tried to dissuade them from a second attack by pointing out that there were "no wars between the English and the Sevajees." Hill, "Episodes of Piracy," part 2, in Indian Antiquary, p. 17.

53. Low, Indian Navy, vol. 1, pp. 16, 65, 90, 118, 123.

54. P. Risso, Oman and Muscat: An Early Modern History (London: Croom Helm and New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986), chs. 8 and 10.

55. Ibid., Chs. 6 and 7.

56. Texts of the two agreements made between British Bombay and Oman, in 1798 and 1800, can be found in C. U. Aitchison, A Collection of Treaties, Engagements and Sanads relating to India and Neighbouring Countries (1933), vol. 11, pp. 287-88.

57. William Bruce, the EIC Resident at Bushire, to Bombay, 28 Nov. 1816, cited by Davies, The Blood-Red Arab Flag, p. 404, n.120.

58 P. R[isso] Dubuisson, "Qasimi Piracy and the General Treaty of Peace (1820)", Arabian Studies, 1978, vol. 4: 47-57. Recent research has uncovered more evidence of Qasimi submission to Wahhabi rule and ideology. See Davies, The Blood-Red Arab Flag, esp. bottom p. 250-top p. 251.

59. Sultan Muhammad al-Qasimi, The Myth of Arab Piracy in the Gulf (London: Croom Helm, 1986), p. 81.

60. For a quick overview of the increase in Qasimi attacks, see Davies, The Blood-Red Arab Flag, Tables, pp. 169 and 170; also Figures, pp. 157 and 168.

61. Letter from 'Abd Allah b. Su'ud to William Bruce, Oct. 1814, English translation in J. A. Saldanha, Precis of Correspondence regarding the Affairs of the Persian Gulf (Simla, 1906), pp. 55-57.

62. Letter from 'Abd Allah b. Su'ud to William Bruce, Nov. 1816, cited by Davies, The Blood-Red Arab Flag, p. 244.

63. Al-Qasimi, Myth, pp. 32, 48-49. Al-Qasimi's assertion is that the Qawasim committed none of the attacks of which they were accused, which is not a defensible position. See my "Qasimi Piracy," Arabian Studies, esp. pp. 50-51.

64. Davies, The Blood-Red Arab Flag.

65. At nearly the same time, there was an intriguingly similar case near the southeastern-most coast of China. Specifically, the Qing administration campaigned vigorously against "piracy" organized by the Tay-son challenges to the Nguyen regime of northern Vietnam. Like the Wahhabis, the Tay-son used booty to build a new, alternative state. Just as the British preferred the Omanis, the Qing preferred the Nguyen. See Dian H. Murray, Pirates of the South China Coast, 1790-1810 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1967).

66. For texts of the treaties, see C. U. Aitchison, Collection: "General Treaty of Peace (1820)," pp. 245-49.

67. H. Moyse-Barlett, The Pirates of Trucial Oman (London: Macdonald & Co. Ltd., 1966), p. 112, citing the author of the General Treaty of Peace, Captain T. P. Thompson.

68. Rediker, Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, pp. 281-83; Ritchie, Captain Kidd, pp. 11-14.

69. See note 11, above, and corresponding text.

70. Sen, Kanhoji Angria, p. 26: "Kanhoji Angria was not a corsair like Captain Kidd. He was the Lord High Admiral of the Maratha fighting fleet and rode the sea under his master's flag, but to most Europeans he was no better than a common pirate, who seized every ship he could, held the unfortunate sailors to ransom and made them labour hard for a scanty subsistence until they could secure their freedom. . . . " Also, Panikkar, Asia and Western Dominance, p. 74. Although Panikkar mentions pirates (pp. 35, 98-100, 103), he does not include Kanhoji and Sambhaji Angre among them. Rather, he describes the Angres as powerful protectors of western India against the British in the early eighteenth century. See also anonymous remarks on the back cover of the Biddulph reprint: "The author [that is, Biddulph] . . . characterizes Kanoji as a pirate but this is counter to historical fact because he was a Rajah in his own right and admiral . . . of the Navy of Shivaji the Ruler of Western India."

71. See note 39, above, and corresponding text.

72. Ritchie, Captain Kidd, ch. 9; David Cordingly, Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates (New York: Random House, 1995), pp. 187-89.

73. A few other non-European examples from my long eighteenth century not covered in this paper are: the Sidis, who are mentioned but not for their reputation as "pirates"; the Sanganians (a subgroup of the Rajputs) and the Vedhels, both of western India; Mir Muhanna of Bandar Rig and Rahma b. Jabir al-'Utbi of Qatar, both of whom operated from bases in the Gulf.

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