Piracy, Privateering, and Elizabethan Maritime Expansion
Piracy, the act of seizing a ship or its cargo from its lawful owners or their agents, has been endemic to maritime nations ever since man first set sail upon the high seas. By the time Elizabeth Tudor had ascended the throne in 1558, English piracy had entered into a Golden Age, as freebooter s roamed its coastal waters virtually unchalleng ed. With fat prizes, particular ly Spanish treasure ships to be found further out to sea, the plundering spread into the waters of the Atlantic and finally to the Caribbean, the well-sprin g of Spain' s ever increasing wealth. But as the violent, frequently profitable enterprise of piracy escalated into a state of near anarchy, English commerce began to suffer heavy losses in the waters closer to home.