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Small Boats, Weak States, Dirty Money: Piracy and Maritime Terrorism in the Modern World (Columbia/Hurst) Reprint Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231700771
ISBN-10: 0231700776
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Editorial Reviews


A valiant effort... its sobriety and scope should make it essential for professionals in shipping, insurance, risk management, and security.

(Stephen Fidler Financial Times)

Specialists and general readers alike will find Murphy's broad, systematic treatment of the subject an excellent starting point.

(J. Peter Pham RUSI)

This book sets the standard for future serious works on piracy and maritime terrorism.

(Claude Berube Naval War College Review 1900-01-00)

Murphy has produced an excellent, exhaustively researched work that should serve scholars, policy makers, and general readers well... Highly recommended.


This timely book sheds leight on the complexities of a problem that at first glance seems relatively simple, and in so doing, provides valuable insight for those who would counter this blight on international trade.

(Naval Institute Proceedings)

Timely and relevant.

(Dave Mugridge Canadian Naval Review 1900-01-00)


There have been a number of books on modern piracy, yet no work compares to Martin N. Murphy's comprehensive and scholarly research. His will stand as the definitive reference on the subject for years to come.

(John S. Burnett, author of Dangerous Waters: Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas)

Product Details

  • Series: Columbia/Hurst
  • Paperback: 540 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Reprint edition (September 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231700776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231700771
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,244,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a standard work on the subject of maritime piracy and maritime terrorism from the world's top expert on the subject.

I use this book for teaching my course on Global Maritime Security. What I like most about Dr. Murphy's volume is that it is detailed and comprehensive, but written in an engaging and brisk style. I just don't know of any other author who is as equally adept at analysis of Somali piracy and as Sri Lankan maritime terrorism, and who understands why the issues matter for maritime security. It kind of reminds me of a high quality documentary on paper. There are a number of pithy historical references to notorious piracy or maritime terrorist incidents, explaining what happened and why, and then placing them in the context of warfare, failed states or politics ashore. The book covers the range of irregular or unconventional threats at sea, including pirates (in Asia, Africa and elsewhere) and maritime terrorism, trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, maritime international organized crime, and maritime drug trafficking. Small Boats, Weak States.... created quite a buzz in the maritime security community because the author is an insider--an expert in both African and Asian maritime security, but who takes a global perspective. I heard Dr. Murphy speak at a conference, and the stories and analysis draw you in to an incredible world of crime, drug trafficking and irregular maritime warfare at sea. The book will be of special interest to people interested in a sophisticated analysis of maritime security, naval historians and researchers and those interested in international organized crime.
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Format: Paperback
Dr. Murphy's book is a must-have for anyone interested in piracy and maritime security.

Piracy has grabbed considerable attention over the past several years due to the spike in attacks off the Somali coast. Is it a global phenomenon, a regional challenge or a local issue? Dr. Murphy eloquently discusses why we should care about piracy by explaining what piracy is, what the pirates seek, what motivates their behavior, the types of ships being attacked and the true costs of this illicit behavior.

One example of how Dr. Murphy cogently synthesizes complex issues is his summary of the seven factors that encourage piracy, including (1) legal and jurisdictional opportunities; (2) favorable geography; (3) conflict and disorder; (4) under-funded law enforcement/inadequate security; (5) permissive political environments; (6) cultural acceptability/maritime tradition and (7) reward.

Incredibly researched, Dr. Murphy's book is valuable to anyone interested in international affairs, national security, maritime security, piracy or terrorism. It is written for both those without previous exposure to maritime security and those that work these issues on a daily basis.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author seems mostly concerned with piracy and terrorism on the seas as a legal matter. If this is your concern, then it may be a valuable book. It is clearly not directed to a general audience,
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Format: Paperback
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Columbia University Press in exchange for a review. I requested this book directly from them after it was highly praised by an author whose work I previously reviewed for the Naval Historical Institute. No bribery or corruption was necessary for a good review.]

In Small Boats, Weak States, Dirty Money, British scholar Martin Murphy seeks to untangle a difficult set of problems: what sort of threat do piracy and maritime terrorism present to the world and its shipping, what evidence suggests that terrorists and criminals might work together in some fashion, and what can be done about these threats? It is a book so meticulously researched that after more than 400 pages of heavily footnoted material the book places its substantial bibliography in an online .pdf rather than making an already long book even longer. If one has a personal, academic, or professional interest which would require a knowledge of piracy, the vulnerabilities of ocean-borne shipping networks, or maritime insurgency and terrorism around the world, this book is an essential read.

There are many strengths to this work which combine to make it a seminal work in its field. Key to its strengths is a keen attention to detail, a richly humane approach to the victims of piracy and terrorism, and a sense of nuance and precision that allows the author to avoid overly sweeping pronouncements while keeping close to the evidence at hand in providing deeply insightful case studies of the regional components of the piracy and maritime insurgency/terrorism picture.
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