Pirates and pilgrims: The plunder of the ganj-i sawai, the hajj, and a Mughal captain’s perspective


The pirate attack by Henry Every in 1695 on a Mughal ship carrying travelers returning from pilgrimage to Mecca has received some attention by historians trying to fit this incident into a larger history of European piracy using mainly the English sources related to the incident. Drawing from this literature the aim of the present paper is to combine it with the Mughal Persian material available to demonstrate what this incident reveals about the early modern hajj – which is to say, pilgrimage to Mecca – and the makeup of the Mughal-sponsored ship carrying pilgrims and goods between Mecca and Surat. A previously unstudied Mughal letter related to the incident, by the captain of the Mughal ship in question, reveals the ways in which the Mughal Empire understood this encounter with European piracy and provides evidence for why the Mughal Empire was so quick to place the blame for this attack upon the English and the East India Company.

Publication Title

Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient