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Mercenaries, Pirates, and Sovereigns

Mercenaries, Pirates, and Sovereigns: State-Building and Extraterritorial Violence in Early Modern Europe

Janice E. Thomson
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 230
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7t30p
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  • Book Info
    Mercenaries, Pirates, and Sovereigns
    Book Description:

    The contemporary organization of global violence is neither timeless nor natural, argues Janice Thomson. It is distinctively modern. In this book she examines how the present arrangement of the world into violence-monopolizing sovereign states evolved over the six preceding centuries.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2124-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    Why are global coercive capabilities organized the way they are? Why do we have centralized bureaucracies—states—that claim a monopoly on violence? Why is this monopoly based on territorial boundaries? Why is coercion not an international market commodity?

    The contemporary organization of global violence is neither timeless nor natural. It is distinctively modern. In the six centuries leading up to 1900, global violence was democratized, marketized, and internationalized. Nonstate violence dominated the international system. Individuals and groups used their own means of violence in pursuit of their particular aims, whether honor and glory, wealth, or political power. People bought...

  6. CHAPTER ONE The State, Violence, and Sovereignty
    (pp. 7-20)

    Weberians conventionally define the state, in part, in terms of its control over coercion. According to Weber, one of the essential characteristics of the state is that it “successfully upholds a claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order.”¹ Similarly, Tilly includes “controlling the principal means of coercion within a given territory” in his definition of the state.² More recently, Giddens defines the nation-state, in part, as having “direct control of the means of internal and external violence” within “a territory demarcated by boundaries (borders).”³

    The differences in the wording of...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Nonstate Violence Unleashed
    (pp. 21-42)

    Rulers began authorizing nonstate violence as early as the thirteenth century, when privateering was invented.¹ Large-scale private armies dominated Europe during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Mercenary armies were the norm for eighteenth-century European states; naval mercenaries were common through the eighteenth century. Mercantile companies flourished from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. All of these practices reflected the marketization and internationalization of violence that began with the Hundred Years’ War.

    One reason for this turn to nonstate violence was the ruler’s lack of revenue. By authorizing individuals and groups to exercise political power and violence, rulers avoided the expense...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Unintended Consequences
    (pp. 43-68)

    Authorizing nonstate violence in the international system served state interests well. Nonstate actors contributed much to state rulers’ political, territorial, and economic goals at little cost to the states themselves. Their efforts were indispensable to the state’s projects of making war on other states, suppressing societal resistance, and acquiring a foothold in extra-European territories.

    Yet this system was not without its problems. Each nonstate practice produced unanticipated and sometimes bizarre outcomes. Privateering generated organized piracy. Mercenaries threatened to drag their home states into other states’ wars. Mercantile companies turned their guns on each other and even on their home states....

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Delegitimating State-Authorized Nonstate Violence
    (pp. 69-106)

    By the nineteenth century, European state rulers were aware of the problems outlined in chapter 3. At the same time, the principal cause of those problems—authorizing nonstate violence—was a customary practice that it had been going on for hundreds of years. Eliminating problems caused by historically legitimate practices would be inherently difficult. Even if state rulers could agree that a particular practice was a problem, the solution was not obvious. In most cases, resolution of the problems came as an unintended outcome of day-to-day diplomacy.

    This chapter focuses on the context in which each practice was delegitimated at...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Suppressing Unauthorized Nonstate Violence
    (pp. 107-142)

    Stamping out unauthorized nonstate violence was not a mere mopping-up operation. In practice, determining which states were responsible for quashing piracy entailed resolving fundamental questions about sovereignty.

    Who was sovereign where, and for what violent acts could states be held accountable? Once Europeans had resolved these issues, the antipiracy norms were spread to extra-European regions, where political rulers were charged with implementing those norms or risking the loss of their sovereignty.

    The establishment of a republican government in the United States generated a new form of extraterritorial violence—nonstate military expeditions against neighboring territories. Like privateering, this form was not...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Conclusion
    (pp. 143-154)

    The state’s monopoly on external violence came very late and through a process spanning several centuries. For three hundred years nonstate violence was a legitimate practice in the European state system. In the course of the nineteenth century nonstate violence was delegitimated and eliminated. The evolution of sovereignty in the realm of extraterritorial violence was toward a state monopoly on authority over its use. In terms of the analytical framework presented in chapter 1 (see table 1.1), external violence was shifted to boxes 1 (state allocation) and 5 (state ownership). Decision-making authority was taken from nonstate actors and monopolized by...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 155-200)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-214)
  14. Index
    (pp. 215-219)