Mercenaries, Privateers, and Chartered Companies

Part of the New Security Challenges book series (NSECH)


Chapter 3 offers a historical consideration of commercial non-state violent actors and commercial type policies under two rationales. The first is to highlight the one-time prominence of such actors, predominantly in the land milieu and especially understood through the term “mercenary”. This then allows one to reveal how mercenarism either declined in an absolute sense or those who might be described as mercenaries were absorbed into state expectations and the standing, standardized, and technologically dependent organizations of states. Here attention is paid to pejorative implications related to nationality and military service and to bodies such as the French Foreign Legion, the Gurkha units in a variety of countries, and the bands of (mostly) Cold War era soldiers of fortune. The second is to note that commercial non-state violent actors became less and less associated with advanced machines in warfare. The decline of phenomena like privateering and armed chartered company fleets made the possession and utilization of sophisticated technologies in conflict more and more the preserve of states. The chapter inherently emphasizes that today’s Private Military and Security Companies owning and operating sophisticated technologies that we commonly associate with the state would be, at the very least, a surprising bucking of historical trends.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Defence StudiesRoyal Military College of Canada/Canadian Forces CollegeTorontoCanada

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