GRC20240 Piracy in World History

Academic Year 2023/2024

*** Not available in the academic year indicated above ***

This aim of this module is to examine piracy from a variety of perspectives to gain an understanding of its origins and characteristics in major periods of world history. A central feature of the module will be the critical evaluation of political, historical and literary discourses on piracy, from ancient times to the present, focussing on the most important areas of scholarly debate. These include: changes in the ways that piracy and pirates were defined; the development of state-sanctioned forms of maritime violence; the impact of piracy on particular economies and societies; the efforts of nation-states to control or suppress piracy; the portrayal of pirates in different cultures.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of the module you should be able to:
• synthesize appropriate information about piracy from a range of primary and secondary sources
• construct relevant and analytical answers to historical questions about piracy
• analyse and comment critically on primary sources relating to piracy, placing them in their historical context, assessing their bias, reliability and historical value
• analyse and critically evaluate current scholarly research on piracy
• debate and present conclusions on an aspect of piracy as part of a small group

Indicative Module Content:

Typical lecture list:
1. Introduction
2. Piracy in Classical Antiquity
3. Vikings
4. The Corsairs
5. Global empires, trade and piracy
6. Piracy in the Caribbean
7. The Golden Age of piracy
8. Piracy in South East Asia
9. Group presentations
10. Piracy and Nation States in the Modern Era
11. Cultural Images of Piracy

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars.
The lectures outline the major aspects of piracy in world history, highlight key themes and issues, present indicative historical examples and discuss important modern interpretations. They also provide guidance on further reading.
The seminars, for which advance preparation is essential, are small group discussion classes. Three of them are devoted to in depth discussion of particular case studies, e.g. Piracy in the Homeric epics, Captain Kidd, "The General History of the Pyrates". One seminar will be devoted to the organisation of the group project and one will focus on the written assignment. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: 2,000 word essay on an aspect of piracy in world history. The choice of subject must be approved by the module co-ordinator. Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Group Project: The aim of the group project is for each seminar group to research, debate and present conclusions on an aspect of piracy in world history. Week 9 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Students will receive individual written feedback on their group project and written assignment as soon as possible, and within 20 working days of submission; it will be emailed directly to them. They may also arrange an individual meeting with the module co-ordinator to discuss their feedback and grades.

GRC20240 Piracy in World History General Reading List
There is no set book, but the following are highly recommended:
• Tim Travers, Pirates: A History (2007), The History Press, Paperback edition 2009, ISBN 978-0752448527.
• C. R. Pennell ed., Bandits at Sea: A Pirates Reader (2001), New York University Press, Paperback edition ISBN 978-0814766781.
Also very useful are:
• Stefan Eklöf Amirell & Leos Müller eds., Persistent Piracy: Maritime Violence and State-Formation in Global Historical Perspective (2014), Palgrave Macmillan, Hardback edition, ISBN 978-1137352859.
• Joel Baer, Pirates of the British Isles (2005), Tempus, Hardback edition ISBN 978-0752423043.
• David Cordingly, Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates (2006), Random House, Paperback edition, ISBN 978-0812977226 [Originally published as Life Among the Pirates: The Romance and the Reality, 1995].
• Philip de Souza, Piracy in the Graeco-Roman World (1999), Cambridge University Press, Paperback edition 2002, ISBN 978-0521012409.
• Peter Lehr, Pirates: A New History from Vikings to Somali Raiders (2019) Yale UP, Hardback ISBN 978-0-300-18074-9.
• Grace Moore, ed., Pirates and Mutineers of the Nineteenth Century; Swashbucklers and Swindlers (2011), Routledge, Paperback edition 2016, ISBN 978-1-138-25187-8.
• Amedeo Policante, The Pirate Myth: Genealogies of an Imperial Concept History (2015) Routledge, Paperback edition 2016, ISBN 978-1138211308.
• Marcus Rediker, Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age (2004) verso, Paperback edition 2005, ISBN 978-0807050255.
• Michael J. Struett, Jon D. Carlson & Mark T. Nance, eds., Maritime Piracy and the Construction of Global Governance (2013), Routledge, Paperback edition 2014, ISBN 978-1138015753.
• Captain Charles Johnson, A General History of the Pyrates, 1724, and numerous later editions.
Specific bibliographies will be provided for lectures and seminars. PDF copies of key items will be made available via Brightspace.
Associate Professor Philip de Souza, UCD School of Classics, Module Co-ordinator
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.

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