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Introducing Pirates and Piracy

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Ruth McClelland-Nugent

on 18 May 2015

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Transcript of Introducing Pirates and Piracy

Introducing Pirates and Piracy
The "Golden Age" of Piracy
Piracy flourishes as global commerce expands in the period 1500-1850.
It's useful to weaker states; they encourage or outright sponsor piracy against stronger rivals.
Pirates can be used as a naval force (privateers), but increasing piracy also forces.
It declines as it becomes less useful to state actors. Europeans (but not the US) sign the Treay of Paris in 1856 which forbids the use of privateers.
In the Caribbean and Atlantic, a narrower "Golden Age" is sometimes defined as c. 1680-1720.
Your first day's readings will expand on the ebb and flow of piracy in the Age of Sail
This prezi will explain a few technical terms and give you a quick overview of the world of Atlantic pirates

The Schooner
One of the most important designs of ship for Atlantic piracy, especially in Caribbean waters.
They became popular in the early 18th century and remained so until the early 20th century, when they became popular racing ships.
Their hulls were smaller than a frigate's (so they held less cargo), but the ships were incredibly fast and maneuverable.
They could even sail in shallow waters and anchor in small, hidden coves.
This made them a great choice for offshore fishermen and smaller merchant voyages, as well as for pirates.
They could not overpower a frigate, but could frequently outrun and outmaneuver one. This made them a great ship to go up against the vessels of a state's navies.
The Early Modern Period
You will see this term used a good deal. It roughly covers the period 1450-1800 in Europe (you may see slightly different dates on either end.)
In the Americas, both North and South this is roughly contemproary with the "Colonial Period."
It encompasses most of what we call the Renaissance era, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, the early Industrial Revolution, and the Enlightenment.
It is also the era of a massive reoganization of European economies, away from feudal agriculture and towards mercantile based economies
This means massive social upheavals. Your second set of readings explores this in relaiton to piracy and sailing.
Recruiting pirates
Our second set of readings this week focuses on sailors and pirates from their perspective.
Not surprisingly, piracy becomes attractive to many maritime laborers.
Those forced into the Navy face death if they leave. Since they will be outlaws anyway, deserts often turn pirate.
Those forced into indentured servitude in the colonies, likewise, find piracy an attractive escape from a life of servitude.
Many African men serve on European ships' crews. They may turn pirate to escape bad conditions.
Other African men are enslaved in this period, which sees a huge rise in slavery. Piracy offers men escaping slavery a way to make a living and some protection from their pursuers.
Life on pirate ships often challenges the early modern social hierarchy. Status at birth counts for nothing; titles and land owmership are irrelevant.
All Atlantic sailors, including pirates, are part of a culture that is not quite like wider Western culture
The Age of Sail
The Age of Sail is a term widely used in the West to mark off the period between when long distance ocean voyages became more possible, to when sailing ships became outdated.
European ships before the 1400s seldom sailed far from the coasts (although the Norse had some exceptions to this.) Their sails were square and ships relied heavily on rowing.
The Portuguese caravel, developed about 1450, had triangular rather than square sails, allowing it to harness wind power much more effectively.
Caravels could also "tack," a technique whereby sailing ships can actually sail
the direction of the wind.
The Frigate and Galleon
Two other ships that became important to pirates, merchants, and navies.

The galleon (above right) was a popular ship for trading, rading, and military use from the 15th-18th centuries. It featured a mix of triangular and square sails, and sailed low in the water. It was longer than a galleon and the forecastle (the construction at the front) was also low, making it a smaller target.

The frigate (below right) dominated navies and large scale merchant trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Ships had sails similar to a galleon's, but could achieve fastre speeds. The frigate had an ever lower profile than the galleon, making it very fast and relatively maneuverable. They could be heavily armed and carried much cargo.
Social Status
This period sees a shift from societies built around a local, personalized hierarchy to a new commercial one.
Many early modern people never left their villages.
Social distinctions went up and down a local ladder, with the large landowner (aristocrat or gentry) at the top, small landholders in the middle, and landless labourers at the bottom. Beneath them were vagrants and the unemployed.
People owed deference to those above them.
Those at the top were supposed to provide protection and care to those below them.
The aristocracy (and in some cases the gentry) ran local affairs, and sometimes naitonal ones (i.e., sat in English Parliament).
Aristocracy: landowning classes with a title (Count, Baron, Duke, etc.)
Gentry: large hereditary landowners, but no family title.
The new reality
Merchant wealth became more and more important. Aristocrats are still important, but merchant interests drive national politics more and more. Wealthy merchants enjoy increasing political power.
Populations shift slowly towards cities, especially large seaports, as people seek work.
The landless poor become a source of profit. Local government official send them to workhouses, or "sell" them to merchant groups as indentured labor for the colonies.
Sailor's labor becomes more important, as they have a valuable skill: how to sail a ship. They can sometimes negotiate better wages and conditions with merchants; they bargain together as a "crew."
At the same time, navies need cheap labor; many sailors are kidnapped, tricked, or otherwise forced into navies.
Black and white sailors labor together
A "press gang" forces men into the Navy.
Stede Bonnet, a propserous landowner who turned pirate, here represented in a 1724 engraving.
A group of aristocrats enjoying one of the exotic new beverages made available to Europeans in the Age of sail: chocolate. Their right to rule was little contested in most European countries.
Hstorians study sailors as some of the first "organized labor" in the Western world. They worked as one unit and bargained as one unit.
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