Where can I find statistical information on the effects of piracy on American shipping in the nineteenth century?
August 31, 2011 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find statistical information on the effects of piracy on American shipping in the nineteenth century?

I'm trying to find hard data on the frequency of pirate attacks on American shipping between the American Revolution and, say, 1898. Where can I look for this kind of information? Specifically, I'd love to be able to say "There were x pirate attacks reported against American vessels between 1800 and 1900," or even "Y individuals were tried for piracy in the United States in this period." Obviously I don't expect to find anything that concrete, but you get the general idea.

I have located a number of newspaper articles and other primary sources that address specific cases of piracy, as well as a number of historical laws, but I want to be able to paint (and cite!) a more general picture.

I have access to a good research library, but didn't have much luck today and the reference librarian who specializes in historical data is away at the moment. Even pointers toward applicable databases that I might be able access would be useful. I've checked reference works like A Statistical History of the United States but this is a relatively specific and esoteric search.

posted by synecdoche to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
David J. Starkey's work keeps coming up - if you have access to his work on 19th C British shipping you could see what kind of sources he used.
posted by zepheria at 4:44 PM on August 31, 2011

My understanding is that the threat of piracy was, for the most part, over by early in the 1800s.
posted by Miko at 7:28 PM on August 31, 2011

....in terms of research, you might look into companies that insured vessels, like Lloyd's. I wonder if they'd have actuarial tables or something similar giving an estimation of risk or a relative payout from which you could reason about frequency.
posted by Miko at 7:30 PM on August 31, 2011

Miki, my research suggests otherwise. One number I do have is that nearly 3000 US ships were victims of piracy in the Caribbean between the War of 1812 and 1823; moreover, the United States was sending naval vessels to fight pirates in the Pacific well into the nineteenth century. In 1855, they engaged in joint operations with England against pirates off the coast of China, and as late as 1870 they fought against pirates along the coast of Mexico. It may not have been as widespread as it was during the so-called "Golden Age" or the Barbary and Tripolitan Wars but it was still a very present danger.
posted by synecdoche at 4:23 AM on September 1, 2011

My impression is wrong, then. Thanks.
posted by Miko at 5:52 AM on September 1, 2011

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