Piracy and the production of knowledge in the travels of William Dampier, c.1679-1688

William Hasty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite its centrality to the production of knowledge in the early modern period, the ship remains a rather marginal site in the work of historians of science. Accounts of 'floating universities' and 'laboratories at sea' abound, but little is said of the countless other ships, and their crews, involved in the production of knowledge through maritime exploration and travel. The central concern of the paper is the life and work of William Dampier (1651-1715), a seventeenth-century mariner who sailed as a pirate and authored genre-defining and well received scientific travel narratives. The thesis presented here is that the 'way of life' encouraged among the crews of the pirate ships aboard which Dampier travelled rendered him well-placed to gather the 'useful' knowledge and experiences which made his scientific name. Understanding this juxtaposition requires a focus which moves beyond the materiality of the ship, and which ultimately brings into view some of the social and epistemic geographies which took shape in and beyond the ship. (c) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-54
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
Issue number1
Early online date9 Sep 2010
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • William Dampier
  • Piracy
  • Ship
  • Mobilities
  • History of science
  • Seventeenth century


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