Terrorism on the High Seas: Maritime Transgression and Transnationalism in the Early Americas

Panel co-organizers: Richard Frohock, Oklahoma State University richard.frohock@okstate.edu

                                   Dan Williams, Texas Christian University  d.e.williams@tcu.edu


In the print culture of the early Americas, pirates were continually described as the most murderous and monstrous creatures imaginable.  In innumerable narratives, they were depicted as beasts and devils, and their behaviors were portrayed as cruel, vile, and hellish.  From the late sixteenth century to the early nineteenth century, the literature of piracy was filled with some of the most exaggerated and blood-soaked rhetoric in all of Euro-American print culture.

Yet, drawing on documents and codes that pirate crews composed to structure their lives at sea, scholars like Marcus Rediker, Colin Woodard, and David Cordingly have argued that pirates established some of the most liberal democracies of their day.  In their Articles of Agreement, pirates were not only enfranchised to vote on their officers but also to depose them for poor performance.  They received equal shares of plunder, and, if wounded or maimed in action, they were provided with indemnification.  Such agreements established levels of equality unknown on merchant and naval vessels, and alien to class-based models of civil government.  Moreover, since pirate crews were invariably multi-national, they were among the most transcultural and pluralistic societies of the time.

The panel “Terrorism on the High Seas” intends to explore the remarkable extremes of piracy during the early Americas, from sanguinary savagism to egalitarian libertarianism.  An open panel, “Terrorism on the High Seas” broadly invites papers that analyze how piracy—and maritime terror—were depicted and how these depictions functioned politically, culturally, ideologically, or aesthetically.  Ideally, the panel will include papers that treat piracy in the early American South, but also in the Caribbean and along further North and South American coastlines.  Papers that address pirate communities encompassing various nationalities (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, etc.) are also desired.


Send 250-word paper abstracts to Richard Frohock at richard.frohock@okstate.edu or Dan Williams at d.e.williams@tcu.edu by Friday, September 7, 2012.