While the study isn’t recent, I came across this news brief on a study on the relationship between piracy and the colonies,
Pirates mapped new territory, expanded trade routes, discovered good ports and opened doors with the native peoples, Acosta said. “They really helped European nations explore the Americas before Europeans could afford to explore them on their own,” he said.
By selling stolen silks, satins, spices and other merchandise in ports and spending their booty in the colonies, pirates created an economic boom, helping struggling settlements and making Port Royale in Jamaica and Charleston, S.C., huge mercantile centers, Acosta said. “They didn’t bury their treasure, they spent it, helping colonies survive that couldn’t get the money and supplies they needed from Europe,” he said.
Without the infusion of money into the New World from piracy, it is possible that Britain and France may not have been able to catch up with Spain, Acosta said.