Peter T. Leeson


In the late 1720s Caribbean piracy was brought to a screeching halt. An enhanced British naval presence was partly responsible for this. But most important in bringing pirates to their end was a series of early 18th-century legal changes that made it possible to effectively prosecute them. This short paper’s purpose is to recount those legal changes and document their effectiveness. Its other purpose is to analyze pirates’ response to the legal changes designed to exterminate them, which succeeded, at least partly, in frustrating the government’s goal. By providing a retrospective look at anti-piracy law and pirates’ reactions to that law, my hope is to supply some useful material for thinking about how to use the law to address the contemporary piracy problem.

Recommended Citation

Leeson, Peter T. "Rationality, Pirates, and The Law: A Retrospective." American University Law Review 59, no.5 (June 2010): 1219-1230.