Dead Men Tell No Tales: How the British Empire Destroyed Pirates With Monstrous Legal Rhetoric
The state often enacts violence against marginalized groups by rendering them monstrous. The early eighteenth century saw early and stellar instances of this phenomenon in the way the British Empire pursued and executed pirates. These "golden age" pirates represented an extraordinary cross-section of marginalization politically, economically, socially, and otherwise, all of which threatened the political and social mores of Imperial Britain. In order to implement a policy and practice of pirate annihilation, British authorities constructed pirates as monstrous by racializing, dehumanizing, and emphasizing the supernatural quality of pirates. This study analyzes three eighteenth-century piracy trial transcripts--those of William Kidd, Stede Bonnet, and William Fly--in order to assess how lawyers and judges constructed pirates as monstrous so as to justify the massive and total violence inflicted on them as a class resulting in their complete destruction. In so doing, this study tracks rhetorical tactics and strategies still used by empires and the state today against marginalized peoples to an original historical source.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Nef, Ashley L., "Dead Men Tell No Tales: How the British Empire Destroyed Pirates With Monstrous Legal Rhetoric" (2023). Theses and Dissertations. 9941.
pirates, monsters, monstrous, eighteenth century, British Empire, discourse analysis, rhetoric, trials, trial transcripts, legal rhetoric, William Kidd, Stede Bonnet, William Fly, piracy