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Personal profile

Personal Statement

Lecturer in Early Modern Maritime and Scottish History.

My research focuses on the interplay between maritime activity and imperial authority within the context of British colonialism between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries, including the subjects of piracy, fishing, trade, maritime law, and coastal communities. My first book, Suppressing Piracy in the Early Eighteenth Century: Pirates, Merchants, and British Imperial Authority was published by the Boydell Press in 2021 and focuses on British attempts to suppress piracy in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in the early eighteenth century.

I am currently a Co-I on One Ocean Hub, a GCRF-funded transdisiciplinary project focusing on integrated and inclusive oceanic governance. My project focuses on providing an historical perspective on fisheries governance in Ghana in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My work explores the impact of colonialism on coastal management of resources, in which colonial law and legal forums worked to disrupt African coastal authority and undermine fishers' knowledge while constructing a 'domestic commons' over nearshore resources. 

I am PI on the AHRC-NERC funded project British Colonialism, Marine Sciences, & Fisheries Governance: Lessons from Lake Malawi in the Mid-Twentieth Century. This project explores the development of two distinctive fisheries management regimes in Lake Malawi in the mid-twentieth century; one imposed by the British colonial government and the other by Chief Msosa, who implemented a new chief-regulated fishery in Mbenje Island. This provides a unique opportunity to explore the principles and ideologies underpinning these regimes, considering how colonial fisheries management embedded specific values based on dominant ‘scientific’ principles that neglected and subjugated local knowledge and socio-economic realities in comparison to a chief-regulated fishery grounded in community norms and practices.

Across this research, I am interested in how marine governance was viewed, applied, and contested in localities and how this, in turn, not only influenced and transformed local engagement and attitudes to marine spaces, but also influenced the approaches of imperial polities towards coastal jurisdiction.

I am a co-founder of The Problem of Piracy Network, a board member of the Centre for Port and Maritime History (University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University, and the Maritime Museum Liverpool), and a co-opted council member of the Economic and Social History Society of Scotland.



  • Suppressing Piracy in the Early Eighteenth Century: Pirates, Merchants and British Imperial Authority in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans (Boydell Press, 2021) 
  • The Problem of Piracy in the Early Modern World: Maritime Predation, Empire, and the Construction of Authority at Sea, co-editor with John C. Coakley and C. Nathan Kwan (University of Amsterdam Press, under contract, expected 2023)

Articles & Chapters

  • “Narratives of Non-compliance in ‘Tuesday non-fishing day’, Ghana” co-author with John Windie Ansah and Georgina Yaa Oduro in Rosabelle Boswell, David O’Kane, and Jeremy Hills (eds.), Blue Heritage: Global Perspectives on Ocean Histories and Cultures (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022)
  • “Piracy and Sovereignty in the Indian Ocean: The British East India Company’s Campaign against Atlantic and Angrian maritime predation, 1717-1724” in Susanne Gruss and Marcus Hartner (eds.), Practices and Narratives of Piracy: Connecting the Early Modern Seas (University of Amsterdam Press, in press, 2022)
  • “European colonisation, law, and Indigenous marine dispossession: historical perspectives on the construction and entrenchment of unequal marine governance,” Maritime Studies, 20 (2021): 387-407 (DOI: 10.1007/s40152-021-00233-2)
  • “From the Caribbean to Craignish: Imperial Authority and Piratical Voyages in the Early-Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Commons,” Itinerario, 42:3 (2018): 430-460 (DOI: 10.1017/S016511531800061X).
  • “Protecting Trade by Suppressing Pirates: British Colonial and Metropolitan Responses to Atlantic Piracy, 1716-1726” in David Head (ed.), The Golden Age of Piracy: Readings on the Rise, Fall, and Enduring Popularity of Pirates (University of Georgia Press, Georgia, 2018).
  • “Piracy, Patronage and Political Economy: Captain Kidd and the East India Trade,” International Journal of Maritime History, 27:1 (2015): 26-40 (DOI: 10.1177/0843871414566783). 

Twitter: @davidwilsonhist

Research Interests

I am interested in any aspects of early modern empire and maritime activity, including:

  • Atlantic and Indian Ocean history
  • Caribbean history
  • Piracy and privateering
  • Early modern trade and commercial networks
  • Maritime law and jurisdiction
  • Coastal communities and colonisation
  • Slavery and the slave trade
  • Scotland and empire
  • Imperial governance and authority
  • Inter-imperial connections and conflict

Teaching Interests

My teaching focuses on maritime activity, colonisation, and empire-building in the early modern period.

I currently teach the following classes -

  • The ‘Westward Enterprise’: Piracy, Trade, and the Emergence of the British Atlantic Empire, 1500-1730 (Year 3 / Hons)
  • Scotland and the Americas in the Seventeenth Century (Hons)
  • Enemies of All Mankind? The Rise, Fall, and Enduring Legacy of Atlantic Piracy, 1660-1726 (Hons special subject)
  • Plantations by Land and Sea, 1590-1720: British Imperial Projects in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, c. 1590-1720 (MSc/PG Diploma in Historical Studies)
  • Palaeography (MSc/PG Diploma in Historical Studies)


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Ph.D. History, University Of Strathclyde

Award Date: 28 Feb 2018

Master in Science, M.Sc. Historical Studies, University Of Strathclyde

Award Date: 31 Aug 2013

Bachelor of Arts, History, University Of Strathclyde

Award Date: 30 Jun 2012


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