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Golden Age of Piracy

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Golden Age of Piracy

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Mycroft: "My brother has the brain of a scientist or a philosopher, yet he elects to be a detective. What might we deduce about his heart?"

John: "I don't know."

Mycroft: "Neither do I. But initially he wanted to be a pirate."


Ah pirates, one of the most fascinating and interesting periods in history. While the Imperial powers like to portray these men of fortune as villians, the reality was they were fighting against an extremely corrupt and injust system and shaped the world in ways that is hard to imagine. Their impact has been felt long after their deaths as they helped really solidify and build the worlds first international shipping lanes and trading routes.

Beginning with the Triangle Trans-Atlantic Trade, this blossomed into the globalized economy we now know today. It is important to distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to pirates. Their exploits and stories are grand, sometimes even crazier than Hollywood portrays. However, there are also many myths, legends and misconceptions about pirates that would color the romanticized view we have of them.

From tropical diseases to horrid living conditions on 16-18th century wooden ships along with lack of modern medicine made a pirates life grueling and short. The opposite was low wages and tyrannical rule among the Royal Navy, so options were very limited in that era. If you want to learn more about the real story of pirates, check out the sources we have compiled below.

Primary Sources

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It is important to understand that even some of the primary sources are colored by the people who wrote them at the time. Since pirates were mostly illiterate, we only have a few accounts of the history of pirates from people who were actually there. However, that coupled with other sources lets us really delve into the story.

General History of the Pirates

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Court Documents

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When pirates were caught alive they were transported to the nearest settlement and tried for crimes against the Crown and all sorts of piracy counts. These trials were heavily recorded and these court documents offer a great insight into the real life pirates of the 17th-18th centuries who against all odds continued to still plunder and nearly halt all shipping lanes in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean.

Pirate Codes

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Pirate codes were documents that were organized by the entire group and were a form of democracy in a world that only knew monarchy. They offered health benefits for disabled pirates and laid down rules for how pirates should behave and be prepared for battle. Some codes disallowed gambling and fighting and others forbade women or boys from being aboard.

Misc Documents

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Pirates of the Spanish Main Trading Cards (1888)

Secondary Sources

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Secondary sources about the pirates involve a mix of the primary sources previously discussed as well as lots of contemporary research into the available documents and information of the time. These are great for getting a more objective view of the pirates, while being able to sort fact from fiction as most of these writers cited their works very well.

There are many uses of government documents and letters during the construction of these works, which provides an invaluable about of real information about the pirates that was not necessarily contained within the previously discussed primary sources. These are the best secondary sources we found for the pirates.

Golden Age of Piracy Books

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