rotten > Library > Crime > Pirates


Just as one man's "guerrilla" is another's "freedom fighter," so it is with "pirate" and "privateer." It all depends on whether the individual is killing and stealing against you, or on your behalf.

For all practical purposes, what is now known about the history of piracy dates back to March 1967, when Pirates of the Caribbean opened in Disneyland. Historians working for Disney gave people a true taste of what life was like back then. Pirates sang a lot. They commonly said "Arrr!" and "Avast ye, mateys!" and they hurled scathing epithets such as "Bloomin' cockroaches!" when particularly riled. They sacked harbor towns, took the women for sex slaves and auctioned them off to the highest bidder (for sometimes as little as two bottles of rum). Belligerent drunks who sailed a sunless, subterranean ocean in search of sex slaves and cursed treasure.

First of all, get it out of your head that pirate ships were these massive, sail-laden monstrosities, loaded over with nooks, crannies and a grand and spectacular Captain's quarters. The fact is, they were small and built for speed, because on the high seas, it's pretty damn easy to spot a ship coming your way.

  • Stede Bonnet
  • Sir Francis Drake
  • Jean Lafitte
  • Sir Henry Morgan
  • Calico Jack Rackham


28 Jan 1596 On board the Defiance, Sir Francis Drake dies of dysentery in Nombre de Dios Bay, off the coast of Panama. Drake's body is placed inside a lead coffin and shoved overboard.
25 Aug 1688 Henry Morgan dies from disease in Jamaica.
23 May 1701 Captain William Kidd is hanged in London. Afrer the first attempt fails when the rope snaps, Kidd is brought right back to the gallows and the process repeated. After death, the body is slathered in tar, chained up, and suspended over the Thames where it remains for years as an example to others considering a life of piracy.
22 Nov 1718 Captain Edward "Blackbeard" Teach is killed in battle on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina.
19 Nov 1720 Captain John "Calico Jack" Rackham is hanged in Port Royal, Jamaica for piracy. Reportedly, Rackham's lover and fellow pirate Anne Bonny told him earlier that day "she was sorry to see him there, but if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang'd like a Dog."
10 Feb 1722 Captain Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts is shot to death during a skirmish with a British ship off the coast of Guinea.
1920 Gabriele D'Annunzio employs piracy on trade routes on the Adriatic Sea to support the city of Fiume (present-day Rijeka in Croatia), which he has captured. He will hold the city until the end of the year.

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