Commerce raiding (or privateering) was a specific, perfectly legal wartime activity, which should not be confused with piracy or buccaneering. It was carried out under the royal authority, which granted "wartime commissions" that authorised privateering "directly against enemies of the State." These commissions were generally short-lived affairs (from one to four months).
This type of activity was already known as Saint-Malo in the 16th century, and it expanded to such an extent that it achieved legendary status, and left a permanent mark on the city's maritime history. True, it represented a real and thoroughgoing strategic restructuring of the city's trading activities. Specialists in this area estimate that about a thousand ships from Saint-Malo alone were involved in commerce raiding in the quarter of a century that separates the start of the War of the Grand Alliance (1688–1697) from the end of the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1712) and the treaties of Utrecht (1713).