Book Review: The Prize Game: Lawful Looting on the High Seas in the Days of Fighting Sail


by Donald A. Petrie

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2003. xiii, 217. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $25.95. ISBN:155750-669-8

A comprehensive, and readable study of one of the most misunderstood aspects of early modern naval warfare, the awarding of “prize,” that is the distribution of formal monetary rewards for the capture of enemy shipping and goods in wartime, in contrast to looting, a crass practice in which armies sometimes indulged. The first book published in the U.S. on the subject since the Civil War, The Prize Game explores the many arcane ramifications of the prize issue, such as the differences between prize allocation when the capturing ship was a privateer or a commissioned vessel, how prize differs from salvage, or piracy, the apportionment of shares, prize courts, “exchange”, “ransom”, and “parole,” and much more, using a fairly large number of case studies. The book is well documented, and the many notes often include useful additional material. A worthwhile book for anyone interested in the age of sail
Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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