Author Biography

Edward Lucas is a research fellow at the Center on Non-traditional Threats and Corruption (CONTAC) and an adjunct faculty member at the School of International Service, American University. His research focuses on maritime security and contemporary piracy. Edward has published articles and reviews on security issues, including piracy, in the Naval War College Review, Jane’s Defence Weekly, and Jane’s Navy International. He holds an MA from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, and is completing his PhD in International Relations at American University. Prior to pursuing an academic career Edward served for ten years as an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy.



Subject Area Keywords

Gangs and criminal organizations, Maritime piracy, Nonstate actors, Security studies, Transnational crime, Transportation Security


This article provides a theoretical framework for examining Somali piracy from its origins in the 1990s to the present. This analysis provides both a detailed description of the changing nature of piracy, as well as explanations for why these changes have occurred. The increase in pirate activity off Somalia from 1991 to 2011 did not occur in a steady linear progression, but took place in three separate phases. These three phases can be viewed in terms of a “cycle of piracy,” based on a theory developed by the pirate historian Philip Gosse in 1932. By employing this framework, policy-makers in the U.S. and elsewhere would be better able to judge when counter-piracy intervention is necessary. By preventing piracy from developing into large-scale professionalized operations, as witnessed in Somalia since 2007, the international community will be able carryout more efficient and effective piracy suppression operations in future.