I think one of the most misinterpreted group of people in history are those who sailed under false colors during the 17th and 18th centuries. Yes, I am talking about sea rovers, privateers, smugglers, buccaneers, or the more commonly know pirates.
When you hear the word pirate or any of the other names mentioned above you probably begin to think about bloodthirsty sailors sailing around in huge 75 gun ships pillaging ports and sinking ships in the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean. Some of them did do that, but most pirates were actually lawfully commissioned by a government to protect trade roots and stop other governments from making money in the larger mercantile world. The huge advantage a government had by using these commissioned privateers was that privateers could go off and attack anyone without the risk of that country going to war with another country.
Also, these privateers/pirates weren’t using huge ships. Most of them were using small sloops that usually had 15 to 20 guns. Speed was everything for pirates, and using these small ships gave them a huge speed advantage. Whether it was using it to attack a slower moving merchant ship or just using it to runaway, speed was a matter of life and death for the sailors on them.
One more thing that might wreck you childhood going to the beach…. Most pirates didn’t bury their treasure. There I said it, but that’s what makes me a reckless historian. Most of the cargo pillaged from ships were trade goods that were soldwhen the ship arrived in port.
Pop-culture has really directed us towards a very romanticized view of pirates, but I intend to bring my cannons into line and blast those views out of the water as I continue to post on these great sailors of the 17th and 18th centuries.