University Libraries.

Topics in Criminal Justice: Researching Maritime Piracy

Piracy-and-Armed-Robbery-at-Sea-2011-198x300.jpgThe recently released feature film Captain Phillips has brought modern day piracy to the silver screen. The movie, based on an actual occurrence of piracy off the Horn of Africa, has raised public awareness of the crime which until recently most had thought was an outdated practice. However, in recent years maritime has become a more common occurrence off the Horn of Africa and the Nigerian coast as well.

At the time of the nation’s founding, piracy was so prevalent that it was actually addressed in the U.S. Constitution: Art. I, § 8, cl. 10, provides that Congress has the power “To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations.” At the time there was still some piracy taking place in the Caribbean but the principal concern was with the Barbary Pirates off the coast of North Africa. Although some have questioned whether the state sponsored activities of the Barbary Pirates could really be considered piracy, the United States fought several wars during the early 19th century to put an end to the practice. Until the recent spate of increase in piracy it was long thought to be a historical relic.

Here are some resources for those interested in researching this topic:

Books (Available in the University Libraries):
Somali piracy and terrorism in the Horn of Africa / Christopher L. Daniels. Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2012. Dewey Library / HV 6433.786 S58 D46 2012 .

Maritime piracy / Robert Haywood and Roberta Spivak. London ; New York, NY : Routledge, c2012. Dewey Library / HV 6433.785 H39 2012.

Piracy and armed robbery at sea : the legal framework for counter-piracy operations in Somalia and the Gulf of Aden / Robin Geiss, Anna Petrig. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2011. Dewey Library / KZ 7212 G45 2011.

Modern piracy : a reference handbook / David F. Marley. Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, c2011. University Library / G 535 M327 2011.

Somalia, the new Barbary? : piracy and Islam in the Horn of Africa / Martin N. Murphy. New York : Columbia University Press, c2011. Dewey Library / HV 6433.786 S58 M87 2011.
The politics of the oceans / edited by Kenneth Partridge. Ipswich, Mass. : H.W. Wilson, 2011. University Library / JZ 3690 P38 2011.

Combating maritime piracy : a policy brief with recommendations for action / Robert I. Rotberg. Cambridge, MA : World Peace Foundation, 2010. University Library / K 5277 R68X 2010.
Small boats, weak states, dirty money : the challenge of piracy / Martin N. Murphy. New York : Columbia University Press, c2009. Dewey Library / HV 6431 M8746 2009.

Databases (Sources for academic journal articles):
Criminal Justice Abstracts
Military and Government Collection
Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
Westlaw Campus
LexisNexis Academic

CQ Researcher:

Greenblatt, Alan. (2009) Attacking Piracy: Can the Growing Global Threat Be Stopped? CQ Researcher 3(8): 205-232.

Don't forget to take a look at the Congressional Research Service reports
(Available through GalleryWatch CRS Reports):
R. Chuck Mason, L. (2010). Piracy: A Legal Definition.
Lauren Ploch, A. (2011). Piracy off the Horn of Africa.
Ted Dagne, S. (2010). Somalia: Current Conditions and Prospects for a Lasting Peace.
Rawle O. King, A. (2009). Ocean Piracy and Its Impact on Insurance.


Rand Corporation Maritime Piracy page:
Commentaries, news brief and reports on piracy for industries, governments and military organizations.

UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea’s piracy page:
--Includes legal framework for repression of piracy, piracy legislation from and between member countries, info on international law on piracy, links to all UN docs on piracy.

UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute piracy page:
--Includes Database on Maritime Piracy Court Cases

International Maritime Organization Maritime Piracy page:
--Includes piracy statistics since 1992, best management practices for shippers, and monthly, quarterly and annual reports and pirate activity since 2010.

If you are interested in researching this topic, contact our Criminal Justice Subject librarian, Richard Irving, for assistance. He can be reached at 442-3698 or

Blog post created by Richard Irving and Cary Gouldin

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