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British Privateering Voyages of the Early Eighteenth Century

British Privateering Voyages of the Early Eighteenth Century

Tim Beattie
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 250
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  • Book Info
    British Privateering Voyages of the Early Eighteenth Century
    Book Description:

    The three great privateering expeditions into the South Sea, which set out, respectively, in 1703, led by William Dampier; in 1708, led by Woodes Rogers; and in 1719, led by George Shelvocke, were costly and ambitious long distance voyages, carrying great risk for their investors but promising great reward. This book tells the story of the voyages and their impact. It argues that, far from being anachronistic activities more in keeping with an earlier age, as some scholars have asserted, the voyages were significant events and had a huge impact - on politicians, influencing future maritime and naval strategy; on investors, swelling enthusiasm for the South Sea Company which ended in the disastrous Bubble; and in literature, where the narratives of the voyages became an important source for some of the greatest literature of the period, including Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The book provides a great deal of original detail about the voyages, including the difficulties of undertaking such lengthy expeditions, unrest among the crews, and financial details of investments and returns - and losses. Tim Beattie completed his doctorate at the University of Exeter.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-472-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Tim Beattie
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    This is the story of the extraordinary impact of three privateering expeditions into the South Sea which set out from England in the first twenty years of the eighteenth century. They were privately funded, costly and ambitious longdistance voyages which carried great risk for their investors but promised great reward. The first expedition, which sailed in 1703, was led by William Dampier, and the second (and by far the most successful) by Woodes Rogers in 1708. The third, which set out from Plymouth in February 1719, is usually named after George Shelvocke, captain of theSpeedwell, though this was not...

  7. 1 Privateering in the Early Eighteenth Century
    (pp. 5-34)

    A total of 1,441 vessels were licensed by the High Court of Admiralty to operate as privateers in the wars of 1702–13 and 1718–20.¹ There were periods in the eighteenth century – particularly during the American Revolutionary War – when there was even greater privateering activity, but there was never a time when it was to be more respectable and valued than during the reigns of Queen Anne and King George I. Indeed for much of the eighteenth century privateering was considered an important and honourable activity that contributed greatly to the country’s maritime achievement. At the start of the...

  8. 2 Forerunners
    (pp. 35-44)

    The charge that the three cruising voyages were anachronistic is understandable but does not bear scrutiny. It is based on the contention that the high point of English plundering adventure in the South Sea was reached in the reign of Elizabeth I and was built almost entirely on the spectacularly successful voyages of Drake and Cavendish. These voyages, it is maintained, were followed by over one hundred years of failed projects and abandoned schemes which, by the turn of the eighteenth century, had resulted in the state turning its attention away from the Spanish South Sea and towards its Atlantic...

  9. 3 William Dampier’s Voyage of 1703
    (pp. 45-62)

    William Funnell’s book, from which the above paragraph is taken, is the only full contemporary account of the voyage. Funnell describes himself on the title page as ‘Mate to captainDampier’. Shortly after the book’s appearance Dampier published hisVindication, an eight-page attack on Funnell’s book in which, among other matters, he questions Funnell’s authority as an eyewitness.

    In the first place, he calls himself my Mate; he went out my Steward, and afterwards I did make a Midshipman of him: indeed he had the advantage of perusing Draughts and Books, of which he afterwards gave but a slender Account,...

  10. 4 The Cruising Voyage of Woodes Rogers (1708–1711)
    (pp. 63-100)

    The Woodes Rogers voyage was exceptional; as Campbell wrote thirty years later, ‘there never was any Voyage of this nature so happily adjusted, so well provided for in all respects, or in which Accidents, that usually happen in Privateers, were so effectually guarded against’.¹ It was conceived by Bristol merchants, ship owners and shipbuilders, some with dissenting sympathies, and carried through with a mercantile zeal for proper procedure and accounting. It brought back a Manila galleon – a feat unequalled before or since – accumulated more prize than any previous such expedition except that of Drake, and it did so without the...

  11. 5 The Voyages of John Clipperton and George Shelvocke (1719–1722)
    (pp. 101-134)

    The privateering expedition which set out in 1719 was a significant and costly affair, supported by major figures in the City of London and linked with the ambitions of the South Sea Company. It was a direct descendant of the Woodes Rogers voyage, for although ten years separate them the expedition took place as soon as opportunity (war with Spain) arose to mount a similar venture. The managing owners used the Woodes Rogers book as their instruction manual, placing a copy in the hands of each of the two captains. It is therefore not surprising that the objectives and preparations...

  12. 6 The Political and Strategic Impact of the Voyages
    (pp. 135-144)

    The three cruising voyages were to have a significant impact on the direction of British policy and action in the South Sea. They showed that properly planned expeditions could achieve much against the poorly defended Pacific coast of Spanish America and they stimulated interest in the South Sea Company and particularly in the opportunities for trade and plunder offered within its area of interest. Throughout the period of peace which began in 1721 the success of the Woodes Rogers expedition and the failure of Clipperton’s informed political and commercial debates about how to exploit ‘the inexhaustible fountain of gold’ and...

  13. 7 The Voyage Narratives
    (pp. 145-170)

    Five books provide eyewitness accounts of the three voyages. These narratives were of wide and lasting cultural significance in that they contributed to the growing demand for knowledge about the world led by organisations like the Royal Society but enthusiastically supported by a substantial educated readership. The accounts given in the five books are of varying reliability and truthfulness and it is useful to compare their credibility with that of the seminal travel narrative of its age, Dampier’sA New Voyage Round the World. The influence of the voyage narratives was sustained and extended through their reproduction in several voyage...

  14. 8 Afterlife – Fact, Fiction and a New Literary Genre
    (pp. 171-186)

    In addition to travellers’ tales the eighteenth century saw a boom in the publication of voyage anthologies and – a field which, according to Thomas Lediard, had hitherto suffered from ‘blind neglect’ – naval histories.¹ The first of these histories was Josiah Burchett’sComplete History of the Most Remarkable Transactions at Sea, published in 1720, some fifteen years before Lediard’s ownNaval History of England.² These works were followed, in comparatively quick succession, by Samuel Colliber,A Critical History of the English sea-affairs(London, 1739), John Campbell,Lives of the Admirals, four volumes (London, 1742 and 1750) and George Berkley,The Naval...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 187-200)

    The primary impetus for the three voyages was undoubtedly the existence of war with Spain. The Dampier voyage began just over a year after the start of the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1713), the Rogers expedition set out while the same war continued, and that of Clipperton took place during the brief war of the Quadruple Alliance (1718–1720). The Spanish Empire was perceived as weak and even less able to protect its possessions than in Drake’s time and therefore presented an attractive proposition for adventurers. There were new publications, such as that of Narborough’s voyage, which provided...

  16. Appendix 1: Investors in the Woodes Rogers voyage
    (pp. 201-202)
  17. Appendix 2: Comparison of the terms for plunder agreed by Shelvocke and Rogers
    (pp. 203-204)
  18. Sources
    (pp. 205-214)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-224)
  20. Index
    (pp. 225-236)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 237-237)