GC: n

S: Princetonedu – (last access: 22 February 2014); (last access: 22 February 2014).

N: 1. privateer (n.): 1660s, “private man of war,” from private (adj.), probably on model of volunteer, buccaneer.
2. Francis Drake was essentially a privateer on his voyage round the world even though he did not have a letter of marque for the voyage, as also was Paul Jones before he became a regular naval officer. The privateers from St. Malo and Dunkirk, such as Jean Bart, and the Americans, made great use of privateering.
3. privateer (ship): Privately owned armed vessel commissioned by a belligerent state to attack enemy ships, usually vessels of commerce. Privateering was carried on by all nations from the earliest times until the 19th century. Crews were not paid by the commissioning government but were entitled to cruise for their own profit, with crew members receiving portions of the value of any cargo or shipping that they could wrest from the original owners. Frequently, it was impossible to restrain the activities of privateers within the legitimate bounds laid down in their commissions. Thus, it often became difficult to distinguish between privateers, pirates, corsairs, or buccaneers, many of whom sailed without genuine commissions.
In the late 16th century, English privateers such as Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake were encouraged or restrained, according to prevailing political conditions.
4. A privateer was a private person or private warship authorized by a country’s government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping. Privateers were only entitled by their state to attack and rob enemy vessels during wartime. Privateers were part of naval warfare of some nations from the 16th to the 19th century. The crew of a privateer might be treated as prisoners of war by the enemy country if captured. The costs of commissioning privateers was borne by investors hoping to gain a significant return from prize money earned from enemy merchants.
5. It has been argued that privateering was a less destructive and wasteful form of warfare, because the goal was to capture ships rather than to sink them.
6. The privateer was authorized by a national government to engage as a commerce raider, interrupting enemy trade. Privateers were of great benefit to a smaller naval power, or one facing an enemy dependent on trade: they disrupted commerce, and forced the enemy to deploy warships to protect merchant trade. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without spending public money or commissioning naval officers. Some privateers have been particularly influential in the annals of history. The captured cargo and the prize vessel itself, if serviceable, would be sold at auction with the proceeds distributed among the privateer’s owners, officers and crew; sometimes the vessels were commissioned into regular service as warships.
7. Cultural Interrelation:

  1. Elizabethan sailor and navigator Sir Francis Drake (1540–1596), the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. In 1570 and 1571, Drake made two profitable trading voyages to the West Indies. In 1572, he commanded two vessels in a marauding expedition against Spanish ports in the Caribbean. He saw the Pacific Ocean and captured the port of Nombre de Dios on the Isthmus of Panama. He returned to England with a cargo of Spanish treasure and a reputation as a brilliant privateer. In 1577, Drake was secretly commissioned by Elizabeth I to set off on an expedition against the Spanish colonies on the American Pacific coast. He sailed with five ships, but by the time he reached the Pacific Ocean in October 1578 only one was left, Drake’s flagship the Pelican, renamed the Golden Hind. To reach the Pacific, Drake became the first Englishman to navigate the Straits of Magellan.
  2. Sir Henry Morgan (1635-1688) was a Welsh privateer who fought for the English against the Spanish in the Caribbean in the 1660’s and 1670’s. He is remembered as the greatest of the privateers, amassing huge fleets, attacking prominent targets and being the worst enemy of the Spanish since Sir Francis Drake.

S: 1. OED – (last access: 4 September 2014). 2. GDT. 3. EncBrit. 4, 5 & 6. Princetonedu – (last access: 22 February 2014). 7. (last access: 2 April 2015); (last access: 2 April 2015).


CR: buccaneer, cracker, freebooter, hijacker, letter of marque, piracy, piracy (2), pirate.