Portal:Piracy

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The Piracy Portal

Introduction

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Piracy is a robbery committed at sea, or sometimes on the shore, by an agent without a commission from a sovereign nation. The Golden Age of Piracy occurred mostly in the Caribbean, the American coast, the Indian Ocean, and the western coast of Africa. As British imperialism spread across Europe it brought about many drastic structural changes due to which many sailors and privateers found themselves unemployed. Factors contributing to piracy included the rise in quantities of valuable cargoes being shipped to Europe over vast ocean areas, the weakness of European navies in peacetime, the training and experience that many sailors had gained as conscripts in European navies (particularly the Royal Navy), and the weakness of European government in overseas colonies.

Seaborne piracy against transport vessels remains a significant issue (with estimated worldwide losses of US$13 to $16 billion per year), particularly in the waters between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, off the coast of Somalia, and in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore, which are used by over 50,000 commercial ships a year. A recent surge in piracy off the Somali coast spurred a multi-national effort led by the United States to patrol the waters near the Horn of Africa to combat piracy. While boats off the coasts of North Africa and the Mediterranean are still assailed by pirates, the Royal Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard have nearly eradicated piracy in U.S. waters and the Caribbean.


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Bartholomew Roberts' crew carousing at the Calabar River
Bartholomew Roberts (17 May 1682 – 10 February 1722), born John Roberts, was a Welsh pirate who raided shipping off the Americas and West Africa between 1719 and 1722. He was the most successful pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy, capturing far more ships than some of the best-known pirates of this era such as Blackbeard or Captain Kidd. He is estimated to have captured over 470 vessels. He is also known as Black Bart (Welsh: Barti Ddu), but this name was never used in his lifetime, and also risks confusion with Black Bart of the American West.

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Vitalienbrueder, Wandmalerei in d, Kirche zu Bunge auf Gotland, gemalt ca. 1405.JPG

The Victual Brothers (the Vitalians or Vitalian Brotherhood) were a companionship of privateers who later turned to piracy. They were hired in 1392 by the Dukes of Mecklenburg to fight against Denmark, because the Danish Queen Margaret I had imprisoned Albrecht of Mecklenburg and his son to subdue the kingdom of Sweden. Albrecht was King of Sweden since 1364 and Duke of Mecklenburg since 1383.

The Victual Brothers were organised as a brotherhood or guild and attracted men from all over Europe. Their main naval enemy in 1392 was the powerful Hanseatic town of Lübeck, which supported Denmark in the war. Apart from Lübeck, the Hanseatic League at first encouraged the Victual Brothers. Most of the Hanseatic towns had no desire to see Denmark victorious, since its location was strategic for the control of the seaways. (more...)

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Did you know...

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  • ...that English pirate Henry Every, who was sometimes known as Long Ben, was one of the few major pirate captains to retire with his loot without being arrested or killed in battle?
  • ...that red Jolly Roger flags were the most feared of all; all prayed they never encountered the "Bloody Red," which boldly declared that no mercy would be shown and all victims would be killed?
  • ...that, while it is unknown if pirates actually kept parrots as pets, it is thought that at least some captains kept cats aboard to keep populations of rats and other vermin down?
  • ...that, unlike traditional Western societies of the time, many pirate clans operated as limited democracies, demanding the right to elect and replace their leaders?

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Pyle pirates burying2.jpg
Image credit: Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates

Howard Pyle's illustration of pirate buried treasure. Buried treasure is an important part of the popular beliefs surrounding pirates. According to popular conception, pirates often buried their stolen fortunes in remote places, intending to return for them later (often with the use of treasure maps). However, in reality, the only pirate known to have done this was William Kidd, who is believed to have buried at least some of his wealth on Long Island before sailing into New York.

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