How it all started
• In it’s infancy, piracy started with groups of rugged
men on the island of Hispaniola who lived off the
land by hunting ox and boar.They were called
buccaneers, from the French "boucaner" (to smoke
meat) on a "boucan" (wooden frame set over a fire.)
By setting up smokey fires and boucans with
prepared meat of cattle, they could get a ship to
draw near for trading, at which time the buccaneers
would then seize the ship. The buccaneers were
later chased off the island by colonial powers and
had to seek a “life at sea”.
The Spanish Main
• The Caribbean had become a center for trade and
colonization after Columbus’ discovery of the New World.
During the sixteenth century, the Spanish were mining
staggering amounts of gold and silver bullion. The huge
Spanish shipments of this treasure from the New World
back to Europe attracted many pirates.
The Spanish Main
• To combat piracy, the Spanish adopted a convoy system.
They would hire soldiers, guns and more ships to help
protect the treasure. These were called treasure fleets.
Despite being the richest nation in the world at this time,
Spain was could not afford sufficient military presence to
control such vast amounts of ocean.
The Growth of Trade
• With the decline in native
were forced to rely heavily
on slave labor. The slave
trade offered new sources
for profit other than gold
• Plantations produced
tobacco and sugar which
could make men very rich.
The Golden Age of Piracy
• During the late 1600’s and
early 1700’s, as trade grew,
so did the colonies. Many
becoming very prosperous.
• During this time, Europe was
also in turmoil.
• There was war waging
between many of the “power”
• This led to parent countries
neglecting their colonies and
thus leaving them a prime
target for pirates to pillage
The End of an Era
• As the turmoil in Europe came to an end around 1720,
parent countries could finally turn their attention back to the
colonies in the New World.
• Large navies were amassed, especially that of the Royal
Navy (England) to combat and prevent piracy.
• These navies were so large and widespread that it was
nearly impossible for any pirate to pursue an effective
career for very long.
• It is during this time period that the popular Pirates of the
Caribbean is set.
A Pirate’s Life for Me
Pirates became pirates for many reasons:
• Treasure! It was the quickest way to make it to the good life
of wine, food, and luxury. It’s all about the booty!
• An easy way to get money to spend in the brothels and
taverns. It’s all about the booty!
• Some forced into it after pirate attacks—carpenters, surgeons
• There were no jobs for sailors during times of peace
• The drink drove them to it
– John Archer, before his hanging in 1724, admitted that “strong drink had
hardened him into committing crimes that were more bitter than death to
him” (Cordingly 193).
– William White, before his execution on the same day, said that
“drunkenness had been his ruin, and he had been drunk when he was
enticed aboard a pirate ship” (Cordingly 193).
Captains of merchant and military vessels were
cruel and pushed the crews too far!
Edward Hamlin (crime unknown,
date unknown) suffered flogging
plus being fettered for 8 days to
the deck of the ship
Richard Baker (1734) became ill
on Europa and became too
weak to work on deck. The
captain forced him to spend four
hours at the helm, then a
whipping, and 90 minutes of
being tied to the mizzen mast.
He died a few days later.
• “I could wish that Masters of
vessels would not use their
men with so much severity,
as so many of them do,
which exposes us to great
temptations.” John Archer,
1724, before his execution.
• “It was such dogs as he that
put men on pirating.” John
Phillips, 1722, at the trial of
the crew of Bartholomew
Roberts, regarding former
officers known to starve the
men. (Info taken from Cordingly, Under the Black
Types of Pirates:Types of Pirates:
Pirate or Privateer?
Has a legal
a government to
attack and seize
cargo from enemy
vessels or villages
who attacked and
vessel or coastal
– Boucanier: French term
for process of curing
strips of meat over a
– Buccaneers were thugs,
outlaws, and hunters of
wild oxen and pig on
– Eventually left island
after food shortages and
being pushed out by
authorities: took to the
– Term used for pirates in
– Pirates in the
Fact or Fiction?
• Did pirates have parrots?
– Sure. Monkeys were popular,
• Did pirates have peg legs and
– Yes, many lost limbs, but few had
• Did pirates “grapple” and
swing from boat to boat?
– Not really, usually ships would
launch the long boats. But it
– They usually didn’t swing from
boat to boat; it doesn’t work.
– They didn’t slide down sails with
Fact or Fiction?
• Did pirate ships get close together and fire cannons
from just feet away? It’s in all the cool pirate movies?
– Sometimes, but that was a really dumb maneuver.
• Were there any crazy pirates like the weird, little dude
– Some may have been little, many were crazy, but they did have
Fact or Fiction?
• Did pirates make people
walk the plank?
– No, there’s only one recorded
instance of this, and historians
are skeptical about it.
• A pirate’s favorite sword:
– Cutlass: short but practical
(keeps out of ropes)
– Daggers were handy,
– Rapiers: good for duels
– Boarding axes and pikes popular
It’s all about the
Practical and common plunder:
Food and water supplies
Cloth for sails and markets
Spare parts and pieces for the ship
(masts, ropes, lumber, etc.)
Slaves (to be sold or used)
• Reales or Pesos:
– Silver Spanish coins
– The “eight reales”
coin became known
as “pieces of eight”
– Gold Spanish coins
– The “eight escudo”
coin became known
– Gold or silver cast
into a bar
Treasure recovered by Barry Clifford from “Black
Sam” Bellamy’s Whydah
Fact or Fiction?
• Did they shoot silverware
– Silverware, probably not.
Nails, chains, other bits of
• Did they use a lot of guns?
– Yes, but guns were very
unreliable. They became
wet easily and wouldn’t
work. Most pirates carried
several pistols. There were
marksmen as well.
Buried Treasure and X-Marks the Spot!
Pirates rarely ever buried
• Most squandered their
shares with drink and
• Some hoarded their
shares to live the good
most wasted it on drink
and women only to
have to ship out again
for more loot.
There are three
• Captain Stratton
• Sir Francis Drake
• And the most
famous case of
The one who inspired stories of buried treasure…
Captain William Kidd:
• Not a pirate, at least he
would say he wasn’t!
• Became a privateer
– Wealthy businessmen
and politicians paid for
the outfitting of 34 gun
– Even King William III got
in on the deal
– Had permission to attack
French pirate ships
– Kidd decided to sail to
the Red Sea and the
• Kidd was later captured
and tried for being pirate.
• To avoid the evidence of
his plunder being used
against him, he had his
• Even today, the treasure
is a myth and has yet to
• Found guilty on all
– “My lord, it is a very hard
sentence. For my part, I am
the innocentest person of
them all, only I have been
sworn against by perjured
persons” (Cordingly 189).
– Hanged at Execution Block
in London, then his corpse
was hung in chains at
Tilbury Point on the
• Kidd’s treasure amounted
to nearly £400,000 but
only £40,000 were found
Captain Kidd…Captain Kidd…
FlagsFlags• The background colors of pirate flags were either red or
black. Although black is most associated with pirate
flags, the very first pirate flags were in fact red!
• The early pirates sailed under the red flags. The color
red in pirate flags symbolized bloodshed. Red pirate
flags also symbolized a warning.
• The French name for the red flag was the Jolie Rouge ( a
cynical term translated as Pretty Red ).
• This later became more well known as the “Jolly Roger”.
• Typical Jolly Roger’s are black flags with a white skull
FlagsFlags• Black = Quarter given (We’ll be “gentle”)
• Red = No quarter given (We’ll kill and possibly
torture everyone on board)
Two flags flown by Henry Avrey’s
More Pirate FlagsMore Pirate Flags
One of Christopher Moody’s flags• Typical skull and cross bones
flown by Edward England
Edward Low’s FlagTypical skull and cross bones flown by
More PirateMore Pirate
Calico Jack’s flag
Notice the resemblance
between this flag and the
flag from Pirates of the
Devil skeleton holding an
hourglass while stabbing a heart
Pirates were democratic:
• They elected captains!
• They could rescind their
• The crew determined the
course of action:
– Fight, retreat, go to
Madagascar, go to New
• The captain made sure the
ship went smoothly:
courses, battle positions,
disputes, money, etc.
Captain Morgan (1635-1688)
• Yes, that Captain Morgan!!!
• His real name was Henry Morgan.
• Was not actually a pirate, he was an
• Not much is known about his early life. It
is thought the he crewed aboard many
ships before becoming a captain himself.
• Led many attacks on Spanish ships and
• He most famously led a large navy to
attack and destroyed Panama City.
• He was even appointed governor of
• One of the most famous pirates ever.
• Real name was Edward Teach.
• Infamous towards the end of the
Golden Age of Piracy.
• Was very tall and had a thick, black,
platted beard. He would also place lit
wicks in his hair or in his hat that would
smoke to give him a more menacing
• Had one of the largest pirate ships, the
300 ton Queen Anne’s Revenge. It
had 44 guns!
• His fleet had many ships and over 300
• According to records, Blackbeard was a
very good captain and did not mistreat his
• He was also not as ferocious as he is
portrayed. He mostly played off his own
legend and menacing appearance to get
what he wanted.
• He most famously blockaded Charleston,
SC and ransomed the port.
• Was sought after by Robert Maynard.
Maynard caught up to Blackbeard and a
• Maynard killed Blackbeard, decapitated
him and hung his head from the bow of
Women piratesWomen pirates• Anne Bonny:Anne Bonny:
– Left her husband for pirate
John Rackham (“Calico
– Had a child with him
• Mary Read:Mary Read:
– Raised as a boy, fought in
land armies and on ships
– Joined with Anne and
Calico Jack after her ship
• Both sailed and fought dressed as men
• When their ship was captured, the rest
of the crew wanted to surrender, but
Anne and Mary urged them to fight
• Both found guilty of piracy
– Both escaped hanging because of
– Mary Read died of fever in prison
– Anne Bonny’s and her child’s fate