In a world dominated by nation-states, expressions of private violence have generally been neglected: either as relics of a more disorganised world or as marginal nuisances to states themselves. The prevalence and centrality of private violence in the past and present warns against such complacency. An increasing academic interest in 'non-state' or private violence in International Relations has been mirrored in the world of policy as terrorists, insurgents, private military companies, and more recently pirates, have all become the focus of international security. Despite the increasing interest, the historical analysis of such actors has not been at a premium. This volume seeks to rectify this gap. Setting private violence in an historical context the contributors consider the development of private violence in time, as well as offering a comparative analysis of its unfolding across different geographical planes. The nine chapters that form the volume critically explore the lives of pirates, privateers, mercenaries, warlords, bandits and smugglers - groups of men (and occasionally women) that have sustained themselves and their kin principally through recourse to violence, but generally from outside or on the margins of public, state authority. They underline ways in which private violence acts both as a threat to existing forms of social order, and as a vehicle of empowerment for the established political authorities.
Alejandro Colas is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Birkbeck College, University of London, and the author of Empire and International Civil Society (both published by Polity). Bryan Mabee is Senior Lecturer in International Politics at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of The Globalization of Security: State Power, Security Provision and Legitimacy.