Piracy research papers show that piracy has existed for as long as naval transport, as has its slightly more respectable relative, privateering. Term papers report that Julius Caesar executed pirates who disrupted the lines of supply between Rome and the outposts of its Empire. Other term papers on piracy have illustrated that Britain came to dread the raids of the Vikings, who plundered shipping if the prize seemed worth their while, but especially ravaged the rich coastal monasteries of England and Ireland. As hostilities between the English and Spanish began to build up in the Middle Ages, the rulers of England encouraged piracy against the Spanish, for a number of reasons. For one thing, it was a way to disconcert the enemy and waste its resources. For another, piracy cost nothing, as the pirates had to equip themselves; piracy even generated income because the pirates were supposed to share their booty with the Crown. Pirates who received a Letter of Marque to conduct their depredations were called privateers, and were not regarded as criminals; in fact, piracy was sometimes considered an official branch of the Navy.
From the thirteenth century on, privateers formed an important part of the naval force of Britain. In the days of piracy and Elizabeth I, there were an estimated four hundred pirates plying the oceans, of whom the most famous and successful were Drake and Hawkins; during the time of James I, this number increased to four thousand. In part, piracy was a reaction to the dreadful conditions offered to legitimate sailors, who were little better than slaves, often prevented from coming ashore when the ship made port because of the risk of escape. Many were kidnapped or impressed to begin with. They were malnourished and mistreated, forced to endure great danger, and virtually unpaid. Although a pirate’s life was equally dangerous, in many ways piracy was better recompensed.