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Pirates of the Mediterranean

Declared "enemies of all mankind" by Sir Edward Coke, and later romanticized in popular culture, pirates played a large role in shaping the modern state, giving rise to international laws and modern naval forces.

Georgetown University history professor Judith Tucker will present "Pirates of the Mediterranean: Sea Bandits and the Making of Modern States" at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13, in the Sears Recital Hall of the Jesse Philips Humanities Center on the University of Dayton campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Tucker draws on the history of piracy in the Mediterranean and Arab Gulf during the 17th and 18th centuries to explore the actions and limits of state power in the battle against piracy.

"The activities of pirates played a key role in the expansion of the coercive powers of the modern state and its territorial ambitions — modern navies are one example," Tucker said. "Pirates also shaped legal developments — by definition, pirates operate in places where complex questions of jurisdiction arise. On the productive side, pirates also served the need of the early modern state as military auxiliaries and a nimble merchant marine, until they became more trouble than they were worth."

Tucker, former editor of the International Journal of Middle East Studies, is a pioneer in Middle East women's studies, said Ellen Fleischmann, University of Dayton Alumni Chair in Humanities, who organized the event. Tucker was Fleischmann's doctoral advisor at Georgetown.

Tucker became interested in pirates by chance, after reading an obscure account of an Algerian man who had been captured by pirates in the mid-18th century and transported to North America.

"It struck me as odd — I didn't know things like that were still happening in the Mediterranean during that period, so I got interested," Tucker said.

Pirates disrupted trade routes and attacked merchant ships of all nations. They tested state's ability to project power and dominance over its domain, and can teach us much about the reach and limitations of state power.

"Pirates challenged the state's ambition to establish security on its own terms," Tucker said. "Pirates also offer alternative visions of the good life, a life of freedom and defiance of the rules and conventions sponsored by states."

Fleischmann said the event gives the University and greater Dayton communities the opportunity to hear a preeminent scholar on Middle East history discuss how the history of that region is thoroughly embedded in that of the world.

Given the ongoing fascination with pirates, typified by the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean film series, Fleischmann also hopes Tucker's talk will illustrate how pirates were both more and less than romantic bandits of the sea.

"There was more to pirates than the swashbuckling of Johnny Depp — although I am a fan," Tucker said. "The role of pirates, and outlaws in general, in the making of our modern world was important and complex."

For more information, visit the campus calendar by clicking here.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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