Although the international news media is often filled with reports on maritime piracy, particularly those occurring in Somalia, little research has been done in the field of criminology to understand this crime. Piracy in Nigeria is considered violent, piracy in the Malacca Straits is considered sophisticated, and piracy in Somalia is considered highly organized. However, to date, there has been no effort to empirically document and understand the character of modern piracy based on a comprehensive survey of actual incidents. This dissertation aims to increase our understanding of the substantive and temporal character of piracy in the 21st Century. The present research draws on and merges information from the two primary international data sources on piracy; information collected by the International Maritime Bureau and the United States Office of Naval Intelligence. The merger of these two sources provides the most comprehensive database on piracy incidence currently available, the Contemporary Maritime Piracy Database. This new dataset is used to: examine the cross national and temporal character of contemporary piracy; and develop a descriptive typology of modern piratical acts. This research finds that that although the level of piracy has remained relatively stable over the past decade there have been dramatic shifts in the location and character of piracy around the globe. These shifts have been even more dramatic when the specific national origins of piracy are examined.