In surfing for some information on Surcouf, I discovered a book "Les Corsaires" by Patrick Villiers - a brief modern work that examines the world of the privateers in France through the ages, with some tantalising statistics on the extent to which it was a problem for the British government during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.
For example, "Between 1797 and 1801, 5,557 vessels, the majority of which were English, were captured: the English seized 557 privateers in the same timeframe and in 1801 held 41,500 French sailors prisoner. On the other hand, French privateers captured 41,487 English seamen." (my translation)
As well as the effect that François Lemène, Robert Surcouf and Jean Dutertre had on English commerce in the Indian Ocean, Villiers makes the point that a great deal of French privateering activity took place in the Antilles, and that it strained relations between the United States and France (the "Quasi War" and the "XYZ Affair") until an effective agreement was reached in the Treaty of Mortefontaine in September 1800 (with the fascinating comment that part of the treaty envisaged the lowering of the porice of selling Louisiana to the United States in partial recompense for the 834 American vessels captured by French privateers)
My question is - can anyone point me to a good history (in English or French) of the French privateering world in our period? It strikes me this might be the genesis for an utterly absorbing piece of work.
Thanks in advance