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Old October 21st, 2010, 06:58 PM   #1

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The Pirates of the Caribbean


I've had a fascination with pirates most of my life, but I haven't started collecting books about them until relatively recently. I am presently reading The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard. This is a history of the famous pirate captains of the 1710s, operating in the Carribean and the eastern coast of America; Sam Bellamy, Charles Vane, Edward "Blackbeard" Thatch, Benjamin Hornigold, "Calico" Jack Rackam, and the hapless Stede Bonnett.

From this and other books I've read recently, I've come to realize that there's more to the infamous Carribean pirates than meets the eye.

Some pirates were sailors who had been driven to desert or mutiny on account of the brutality of life in the Royal Navy. Others were privateers who had found themselves unemployed with the conclusion of the War of the Spanish Succesion, a sort of 18th Century version of the medieval "Free Companies". All of them were men who had lived hard lives, and many had suffered from abuse at the hands of captains and naval officers.

Unsurprisingly, many pirate crews were noted for treating captured officers and captains with contempt and even cruelty, but very seldom did they harm common seamen. Some pirates would ask captured sailors how their captain treated them; the kind of answers they got would determine his fate. Pirates were also known for trying to recruit captives into their ranks. Samuel Bellamy's crew styled themselves "Robin Hood's Men", and enjoyed an almost celebrity status even onboard the Royal vessels that hunted them.

Many pirates also had a clear political agenda. The English colonies of America and the Caribbean were the haven of many Jacobites - supporters for the House of Stuart's claim to the English throne. Large numbers of Scotsmen who had been forcibly settled in the colonies were ardent supporters of Jacobitism, and many of these men in turn became pirates. There were numerous instances of pirate crews making toasts to the life and royal claims of James the Third, "The True King", whilst cursing the House of Hanover.

The reputation the Caribbean pirates hold for violence and cruelty has also been exaggerated. Some pirate captains - Vane and Morgan, for instance - definitely had a cruel streak. But far more of them were noted for dealing in a humane - if not friendly - manner with their victims. Many pirates befriended and even recruited sailors, merchants, and travelers onboard vessels they had attacked; Bellamy was famous for allowing the ten year-old captive John King to join his crew onboard the Whydah.

One of the most legendary pirates of all - Blackbeard - was among the more humane captains. He used his own fearsome appearance and reputation, and that of his crew, to terrorize his targets into submission. There are very few accounts of Blackbeard behaving with malice or cruelty towards friend or foe, however.

So, in conclusion, I feel the historical pirates of the Caribbean were far more than drunken thugs and cutthroats. Many were desperate men whose options in convential society were few and unattractive. They preferred to use threats and bluffs rather than force and violence to acheive their goals, and were humane and even sympathetic in how they treated most of their captives. Many also had a political agenda, and strong feelings about the national and international situations of their day.

Discuss.

Last edited by Salah; October 22nd, 2010 at 04:56 AM. Reason: typo
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Old October 21st, 2010, 08:07 PM   #2
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Re: The Pirates of the Caribbean


Understand the history of pirates in the Caribbean and you will understand the dynamic underlying a quarter century of European history.
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 02:35 AM   #3

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Re: The Pirates of the Caribbean


Interesting thread Salah.

I remember reading my way through a book on this subject some time ago. I was particularly interested by the descriptions of some of the ways in which the pirates would organize themselves. In some cases the captain and his officers were chosen by a vote of the the crew.
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 04:55 AM   #4
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Re: The Pirates of the Caribbean


A surprising number of their commanders were 'Welsh' for what it's worth, like Capten Henry Morgan (who was often legal).
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Old October 26th, 2010, 05:47 AM   #5

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Re: The Pirates of the Caribbean


Quote:
Originally Posted by Iolo View Post
A surprising number of their commanders were 'Welsh' for what it's worth, like Capten Henry Morgan (who was often legal).
Another of the greatest of pirates, Bartholomew Roberts, was also Welsh.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 07:23 AM   #6

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Re: The Pirates of the Caribbean


Who did you think inspired the 'pirates of the Caribbean' films ?
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Old October 26th, 2010, 07:24 AM   #7

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Re: The Pirates of the Caribbean


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Who did you think inspired the 'pirates of the Caribbean' films ?
The Disney park theme ride, and money.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 07:25 AM   #8

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Re: The Pirates of the Caribbean


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mohammed the Persian View Post
Who did you think inspired the 'pirates of the Caribbean' films ?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Viperlord View Post
The Disney park theme ride, and money.
"Calico Jack" Rackam served as a loose inspiration to Disney's Cap'n Jack.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 07:27 AM   #9

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Re: The Pirates of the Caribbean


Republic of Pirates was a great read, I thoroughly enjoyed it, I hope to own it someday. It was full of interesting information, I found the descriptions of the different ships and how the crews were fairly democratic especially interesting. However, the whole tale of the Flying Gang fascinating as well, because it defied many of the preconceived notions I had of pirates.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 07:29 AM   #10

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Re: The Pirates of the Caribbean


I definitely recommend Captain Charles Johnson's book ([ame]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_General_History_of_the_Pyrates_[/ame] )to anyone interested in pirates, it's essentially the bible of pirate historians.
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