Thoughts on Pirates

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Thoughtson Pirates

Careers of Pirate Captains and Bartholomew Roberts

This section will compare and contrast the careers of pirate captainsand that of Bartholomew Roberts in the first phase of piracy. It willthen establish the similarities, difference to which a comment willbe made.

Pirate Captains

Throughout history, there have been numerous pirates who transversethe seas for decades attacking and looting merchant ships in theprocess. Additionally, they were furnished with an arsenal that wasused in war and attacks in the seas. Majority of pirates and theircaptains began the trade as privateers for the government that gavethem the authorization to attack merchant ships belonging to enemynations. Building ships and outfitting them with appropriate arsenalcould take ages in that era incapacitating governments in terms ofreadiness of their army and navy incase a war erupted or in the raceto expand colonies in the new world. They, therefore, turned tohiring already operational ships run by ‘privateers` who wereauthorized to attack enemy ships and take possession of goods ondeck[ CITATION Kon08 l 1033 ]. The privateers were allowed to keepall booty from the cargo except for ten percent that was surrenderedto the government. Privateering created a stepping stone for manyfamous pirates who were also viewed as national heroes consideringhow dangerous the job is as much as it’s profitable. Privateers forthe English were viewed as pirates by the Spanish and French and viceversa. As time went by, privateers started attacking random shipssome of which were not under their jurisdiction leading them to fullyventure into piracy. Other names for privateers (Atlantic) includedCorsairs (Mediterranean), Buccaneers (Caribbean) and Conquistadors(Mexico and Peru).


Bartholomew Roberts, otherwise known as John Roberts or Black Bartwas a Welsh pirate who lived between 1682 and 1722. His active piracyyears were between 1719 and 1722 that represented a rather brief butvery successful career considering his success record of over 400ships taken over. His operations were centered on the Atlantic,Africa and the Caribbean commandeering ships such as theRover-Merchant, Royal Fortune, and Sea King-Brigantine. Roberts hadbeen on ships since his youth as he prepared for life at sea. He wassubsequently captured and enslaved by Howell Davis, a pirate captainwhile working aboard a British slaver by the name ‘princess`. Hewas later forced by the pirate crew to become part of them as apirate, but he was reluctant to. However, all this changed when in1719 he was elected as new captain of the ship by the crew afterHowell was killed in an ambush in June that year. He began callinghimself Bartholomew Roberts at the beginning of his piracy career[ CITATION Cap08 l 1033 ].

There are a number of similarities between the careers of Bartholomewand other pirate captains. First, they all had a history at sea asprivateers for the government and Roberts working for a slave shipprior to his capture and eventual entry into piracy. Secondly, theyall had leadership qualities and navigation skills that areinvaluable at sea. Additionally, they all began working in legalactivities before venturing into piracy.

Similarly, there are differences between the two the most significantbeing earlier pirates were already captains of their respective shipsbefore being contracted as privateers and later transform intopirates. Roberts, on the other hand, was first taken in as a slave ina pirate ship then initiated into piracy before being elected intocaptaincy. It is said that the reason behind the fast rise into thepiracy world was as a result of his leadership and navigationqualities which was attractive to the crew of the ship.

Pirate Stance on Race and Gender

The golden age of piracy is a period in the 18th centurywhen sea-banditry was at an all time high estimated to have spannedbetween 1715 and 1725. European based piracy in the modern age hasits conception in the ‘Atlantic triangle’ that was a commonshipping lane between the Azores islands, the North West coast ofAfrica and Seville &amp Cadiz. Most of known pirates originated inEurope recruiting in newfound land fisheries. Africa had intimateties to the Caribbean economy responsible for providing sailors forpirates during this period. Pirates in the golden age were composedof multi-ethnic, proletarian and multi-national seafarers organizedinto anti-authoritarian democratic principles and collectivists. Whenpirates attacked a merchant ship, they gathered the crew of the shipparading the ship`s officers before them for scrutiny. The crew wasthen invited to give a testimony of the captain and officers thatwould be later be used to decide their fate. Kind and good captainswere given their freedom and control of their ship together with itscargo less beer, valuables, and fresh food. However, bad captainswere executed and all their cargo looted after which their ship issunk[ CITATION Red04 l 1033 ].

Pirates would appeal to crews of overcome ships to volunteer aspirates. They hardly judged on the basis of race, but they strictlyrejected women in their ships. Their only contact with women was atports where they would go to merry after success in the high seas.Most pirates were male, childless, unmarried and adventurers in theirlate twenties and early thirties who had maritime experience in bothnaval and merchant ships. Although piracy was a male-dominatedoccupation, there were a few female pirates who practiced itdisguised as men with significant success.

Slavery at that era was rampant, especially in Europe. Slaves wouldbe kidnapped in places such as Africa and other colonies after whichthey shipped into hard labor in farms and white settlements. Theconquest in the Americas wasn’t any different as slaves were usedby their masters in hard labor. As much as slavery wasn’t new inthe Americas with the slavery of tribe members by American Indians,Europeans introduced the aspect of inter-racial slavery that involvedAfricans in most cases. Native workers were replaced by Africanstransported by slave ships through the Atlantic and sold in variousport markets[ CITATION Red07 l 1033 ]. Women were marginalized inmost cases and viewed as property that has no rights or `a say` inany important matters. They were left to care for homes while raisingchildren. Women slaves were mostly used as maids in white homesworking under wives of their masters. Most of them were misused,tortured and living in deplorable conditions.

Although both pirates and European colonialists engaged in slavery,pirates were more welcoming to people of different races as theylooked to add personnel to their crew. Women were however not allowedonboard ships and were seen mostly as sex objects in ports wherepirates would go to make merry. Europeans colonialists were howeverwarmer towards women as they used them for household purposes as mendid all the hard labor.

Extermination of Piracy

By the early years of the 18th century, piracy hadattracted a lot of attention from governments and their colonies whowanted to see an end to it due to major losses incurred in the handsof pirates. The problem was people were becoming richer throughpiracy by trading looted goods through middle men at cut-prices andeventually being sold to normal people at exaggerated prices. This,in addition to their failure to pay taxes on ‘illegally’ acquiredand transacted goods aroused the interest of a number of powerfulpeople who vowed to put an end to it. Europe was also losing a lot ofmoney through random attacks on merchant ships that were essential totrade between continents at the time.

The British government was one of the first to initiate a crackdownon pirates. Britain and its empires controlled most of trade withtheir economy depending mainly on overseas trade. Another factorleading to their intervention was the fact that most pirates wereBritish. The British crown sent Woodes Rogers, a former privateer, tothe Bahamas with special instructions to end piracy once and forall[ CITATION Tem07 l 1033 ]. He was given the power to offeramnesty to pirates who accept surrender with a pledge give up theirpiratical activities. He also had in his possession carte blancheenabling him to arm private ships to chase down and fight pirates.Many pirates took the option of amnesty, but o number fled or turnedaggressive leading the royal navy and Roger`s pirate hunters to huntthem down. Further, London and other colonial powers imposed stiffconsequences on piracy tightening the pressure on pirates stilloperating.

They were subsequently captured, tried and executed one by one orkilled in battle with government forces. Over 200 pirates were triedand executed post-1722 for engaging in piracy in addition to famouspirates like Blackbeard and Black bard who died in battle at sea. Itis unknown exactly how many pirates remained after these operationsor how many just quit changing their names in the process to quietlyfit into society[ CITATION Def99 l 1033 ]. These steps were fruitfulin ending the golden age of pirates and consequently theextermination of piracy in the world’s seas. None the less, piracyas a trade did not end and continues to exist to this day though at asuppressed level.

Atlantic Pirates definitely posed a significant threat to theAtlantic world in terms of hindering trading channels that wereimportant to their respective economies. It is estimated that at theheight of piracy in early 1720’s approximately 2,000 pirates wereoperating in the Atlantic sea. Their main target was merchant shipstransporting goods to and from European ports. After taking controlof ships they looted and forced their crew to work for them.Religious leaders were against pirates due to their atrociousactivities to which their religion disapproved of. They viewedpirates as barbaric and evil people who would go to any extent toearn riches and engage in unholy activities. Pirates had a big rolein undermining colonization efforts of European countries in theAmericas by creating a barrier in the Atlantic that hinderedtransportation of personnel and recourses such as silver between thetwo continents. Additionally, they had set up camps in Caribbeanports where they had a major influence on local populous.


Capenter, J. R. (2008). Pirates: Scourge of the seas. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.

Defoe, D. (1999). A general History of the Pyrates. Minneapolis: Dover Publications.

Konstam, A. (2008). Piracy: the complete history. Osprey Publishing.

Rediker, M. (2004). Villains of all Nations: Atlantic pirates in the golden age. New York: Verso.

Rediker, M. (2007). The slave ship: A human history. New York: Penguin Group.

Temple, B. (2007). The golden age of pirates: an interactive history adventure. Capstone: Juvenile Nonfiction.

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