Paolo Calcagno

Privateers and military mobile defense of the coasts: the Genoese case in the second half of the 17th century

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract


The War of Devolution (1667-1668) officially reopened the military conflict between France and Spain that had been brought to a close less than ten years earlier in the Treaty of the Pyrenees. The Ligurian Sea was to become the scene of incessant privateering warfare between the naval units of the two European crowns: a sort of maritime appendix of the conflict for European domination. The capture of several Genoese boats forced the government of the Republic of Genoa to study countermeasures. Unlike traditional Barbary privateering, which aimed to make raids on land, this privateering between Christian states amounted to a lower-grade sea war. To protect its sovereignty over the Ligurian Sea, the Republic had to abandon the system of coastal towers, relying on a naval patrol that was as continuous as possible. Analyzing the activity of Genoese galleys, this essay highlights the difficulties of the Republic, among which the need to stem the attacks of French and Spanish privateering, and a healthy political realism. The purpose is to highlight the particular features of the Republic of Genoa: a small state forced to oscillate constantly between the defense of its own jurisdiction and obedience to the reasons of high diplomacy.

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