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Pirates!!!. A Brief H istory. What do you know about pirates?. Did pirates have parrots? Sure. Monkeys were popular, too! Did pirates have peg legs and hooks? Yes, many lost limbs, but few had hooks . Did pirates “ grapple ” and swing from boat to boat?

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A Brief History

what do you know about pirates
What do you know about pirates?
  • Did pirates have parrots?
    • Sure. Monkeys were popular, too!
  • Did pirates have peg legs and hooks?
    • Yes, many lost limbs, but few had hooks.
  • Did pirates “grapple” and swing from boat to boat?
    • Not really, usually ships would launch the long boats. But it happened.
    • They usually did not swing from boat to boat; it does not work.
    • They did not slide down sails with knives.

Bartholomew Roberts

Did pirate ships get close together and fire cannons from just feet away? Like in “Pirates of the Caribbean?”
    • Maybe once, but that would be a really dumb maneuver.
  • Were there any crazy pirates like the weird, little dude with grenades?
    • Some may have been little, many were crazy, but they did have grenades!
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, broadswords popular
    • Rapiers: good for duels
    • Boarding axes and pikes popular as well
Did they shoot silverware out cannons?
    • Silverware, probably not. Nails, chains, other bits of shrapnel, sure.
  • Did they use a lot of guns?
    • Yes, but guns were very unreliable. They became wet easily and would not work. Most pirates carried several pistols. There were marksmen as well.

Please remember…

Pirates are evil thieves, murderers, liars, kidnappers, rapists, terrorists, and torture experts

There is no such thing as a “good pirate.”


it s all about the booty
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)

The treasure:

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 as “doubloon”


Gold or silver cast into a bar

It’s all about the booty…

Treasure recovered by Barry Clifford from “Black Sam” Bellamy’s Whydah

types of pirate
Pirate or Privateer?

Privateer:Has a legal commission from a government to attack and seize cargo from enemy vessels or villages

Pirate: Illegal criminals who attacked and plundered any vessel or costal village


Boucaner: French term for process of curing strips of meat over a barbeque

Buccaneers were thugs, outlaws, and hunters of wild oxen and pig on Hispaniola

Eventually left island after food shortages and being pushed out by authorities: took to the seas

Term for pirates in Caribbean region


Pirates in the Mediterranean and European areas

Types of Pirate:
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 pyrating.” John Phillips, 1722, at the trial of the crew of Bartholomew Roberts, regarding former officers known to starve the men.

Captains of merchant and military vessels were cruel and pushed the crews too far!

(Info taken from Cordingly, Under the Black Flag)

pirate flags
Pirate Flags
  • Black = Quarter given (We’ll be “gentle”)
  • Red = No quarter given (We’ll kill and possibly torture everyone on board)

Typical skull and cross bones flown by Edward England

Arm and sword flown by Edmund Cook, Thomas Tew, Christopher Moody


More Pirate Flags

Henry Avrey’s flags

One of Christopher Moody’s flags

Edward Low’s Flag


More Pirate Flags

Blackbeard’s flag:

Devil skeleton toasting while stabbing a heart

Calico Jack’s flag

Notice the resemblance between this flag and the flag from Pirates of the Caribbean


Even more Pirate Flags!

  • The Jolly Roger:
  • Jolie Rouge: Red or bloody flag
  • Ali Raja: Tamil pirate captain
  • “Old Roger”: the devil

Two of Bartholomew Robert’s flags

The two skulls represent two Caribbean island that fought against Roberts

piratical democracy weird
Piratical Democracy?Weird…

Pirates were democratic!

  • They elected captains!
  • The crew determined the course of action:
    • Fight, retreat, go to Madagascar, go to New England: zig-zagged.
  • The captain made sure the ship went smoothly: courses, battle positions, strategy, argument disputes, money, etc.
compensation for injuries
Compensation for Injuries:
  • Loss of starboard side arm: 600 pieces of eight
  • Loss of portside arm: 500 pieces of eight
  • Loss of starboard leg: 500 pieces of eight
  • Loss of port leg: 400 pieces of eight
  • Loss of an eye or finger: 100 pieces of eight
buried treasure and x marks the spot

Spent their money on drinks and prostitutes.

Some hoarded their shares to live the good life, but…

Most wasted it!

There are three recorded examples of buried treasure:

Captain Kidd

Captain Stratton

Sir Francis Drake

Buried Treasure and X-Marks the Spot!
a few other big scores
“Black Sam” Bellamy

Close to $400 million retrieved (modern value) from the wrecked Whydah


Capture more than 20 ships in pirate career

After his fall, £2,500 total, including the sale of his sloop, collected

Artist conception of “Black Sam” Bellamy

A few other big scores
blackbeard truth or legend
Invented persona of “Blackbeard” to scare people

Had 14 wives and 40 kids

Buried massive treasures

Grew beard and tied it with bright ribbons to aid in persona

Burned rope sticking from hat to look fearsome

Chased down a British navel ship!

Buried treasure at the Isles of Shoals

Blackbeard: Truth or Legend?



  • Little is known: Only of his 2 year reign of terror on the high seas
  • Possibly sailed during Queen Anne’s War
  • Possibly learned from Pirate Captain Hornigold
  • Probably took Hornigold’s crew and ships in 1777 after Hornigold took a pardon
  • Considered an nice guy! … unless you gave him trouble


---Edward Teach---Edward Thatch---

---Edward Drummond---Edward Tach---

---Edward Tash---

women pirates
Anne Bonny:

Left her husband for pirate John Rackham (“Calico Jack”)

Had a child with him

Mary Read:

Raised as a boy, fought in land armies and on ships

Joined with Anne and Calico Jack after her ship was captured

Both sailed and fought dressed as men

William 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 pregnancy

Mary Read died of fever in prison

Anne Bonny’s and her child’s fate are unknown

Women pirates
a few other lady pirates
Princes Alwilda (400ad)

She didn’t want to marry Prince Alf of Denmark

She dressed as a man and stole a boat with some friends

When Prince Alf captured her, he also captured her heart!

Grace O’Malley 1500ad

Cut her hair short for sailing

After her husband died, “Granuaille” took control of her family’s fleet

“Grany Imallye” eventually arrested

Befriended Queen Elizabeth I who let her go

Mrs. Cheng (Early 1800’s)

Perhaps the most successful pirates ever!

Nearly 1,000 ships in her fleet!

Harsh and cruel: stiff punishments, no mercy to victims

China forced to hire ships from Europe to help stop her

Secured a treaty: pirates walk away with plunder but turn in boats and weapons

More than 17,000 pirates in her force

A few other lady pirates:
pirate families
Most pirates did not have families

Henry Avery had a wife and two kids

William Kidd had a wife and two “Kidds”

Blackbeard had 14 wives—maybe.

Most pirates did not have time or were more interested in “other” women

Pirate Families

Considered bad luck to have women on board.

There were anywhere from 30-200 male pirates on a ship (depending on size).


Pirate Movies

The Black Pirate, 1926Captain Blood, 1935Fire over England, 1937The Sea Hawk, 1940The Black Swan, 1942Captain Kidd, 1945Treasure Island, 1950Captain Horatio Hornblower, 1951The Last of the Buccaneers, 1951 The Crimson Pirate, 1952Blackbeard the Pirate, 1952

Errol Flynn as Captain Blood


Against All Flags, 1952Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd, 1952Morgan the Pirate, 1961Pirates of Tortuga, 1961The King’s Pirate, 1967Swashbuckler, 1976Nate and Hayes, 1983The Princess Bride, 1987 Magic Island, 1995

Cutthroat Island, 1995Muppet Treasure Island, 1996Pirates of the Caribbean (Trilogy)