Early American Places


UGA PressUGA Press

Privateers of the Americas:

Spanish American Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic

by David Head

The lucrative, extralegal business of privateering as a window into the Atlantic World

224 pages

8 black & white photos

3 tables, 2 maps

ISBN: 978-0-8203-4400-3 (h), 978-0-8203-4864-3 (p), 978-0-8203-4865-0 (e)



Head provides fascinating accounts of privateering in thoughtful and engaging prose. Appropriate for both university and public libraries.
— M.A. Burkholder, Choice

On Slavery’s Border is a bottom-up examination of how slavery and slaveholding were influenced by both the geography and the scale of the slaveholding enterprise. Missouri’s strategic access to important waterways made it a key site at the periphery of the Atlantic world. By the time of statehood in 1821, people were moving there in large numbers, especially from the upper South, hoping to replicate the slave society they’d left behind.

Diane Mutti Burke focuses on the Missouri counties located along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to investigate small-scale slavery at the level of the household and neighborhood. She examines such topics as small slaveholders’ child-rearing and fiscal strategies, the economics of slavery, relations between slaves and owners, the challenges faced by slave families, sociability among enslaved and free Missourians within rural neighborhoods, and the disintegration of slavery during the Civil War. Mutti Burke argues that economic and social factors gave Missouri slavery an especially intimate quality. Owners directly oversaw their slaves and lived in close proximity with them, sometimes in the same building. White Missourians believed this made for a milder version of bondage. Some slaves, who expressed fear of being sold further south, seemed to agree.

Mutti Burke reveals, however, that while small slaveholding created some advantages for slaves, it also made them more vulnerable to abuse and interference in their personal lives. In a region with easy access to the free states, the perception that slavery was threatened spawned white anxiety, which frequently led to violent reassertions of supremacy.

About the Author

David Head is a lecturer at the University of Central Florida.

All in all, Privateers of the Americas is a solid contribution to the literature regarding Spanish American privateering. Head has presented a fine distillation of the privateering enterprise. His research is admirable, his writing style is eminently readable, and his analysis of the workings of the business of Spanish American ‘privateering’ is unassailable.
— Fred Leiner, The Northern Mariner
Head effectively explores the world of privateers in the early American Republic and illustrates how the complicated geopolitical context in the Americas, at least between 1808 and 1820, promoted privateering. . . It is an enjoyable read on a topic that is understudied in privateering history and the history of the early American Republic.
— Patrick Klinger, H-War, H-Net Reviews
In Privateers of the Americas, David Head persuasively argues that privateering also provides a useful lens for examining American diplomatic history in the early nineteenth century. His book also clearly demonstrates the complicated interrelationships – the ‘geopolitics’ – that bound together the United States, Spain, Portugal, France, Great Britain, and the emerging revolutionary republics of Latin America in a complicated Atlantic world.
— Carl E. Swanson, International Journal of Maritime History
By focusing on the Atlantic world instead of continental borderlands, this book contributes a new perspective to the literature on U.S. relations with Spanish America during the age of revolution. . . . The book’s key contributions lie in its careful elucidation of the mechanics of privateering and how the enterprise was shaped by interrelated incentives in international relations, local markets, and federal law.
— Dael A. Norwood, Journal of American History
Head’s close examination of four privateer bases, both on American soil and in disputed territories, illuminates a chapter of privateering little studied before.
— Kathryn Mudgett, Early American Literature