Graduation Year

Spring 2013

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Niklas Frykman

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Rights Information

© 2013 Miles T. Bird


According to the firsthand account of James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak, it appears that piracy in the state of British Malaya in the mid-1800s was community-driven and egalitarian, led by the interests of heroic figures like the Malayan pirate Si Rahman. These heroic figures share traits with Eric Hobsbawm’s social bandit, and in this case may be ascribed as social pirates. In contrast, late 20th-century and early 21st-century pirates in the region operate in loosely structured, hierarchical groups beholden to transnational criminal syndicates. Evidence suggests that contemporary pirates do not form the egalitarian communities of their colonial counterparts or play the role of ‘Robin Hood’ in their societies. Firsthand accounts of pirates from the modern-day pirate community on Batam Island suggest that the contemporary Southeast Asian pirate is an operative in the increasingly corporate interest of modern-day criminal organizations.