Pirates have always been viewed as a gangly bunch of miscreants who spread toil and trouble throughout the world. What many people might not know is that some of the most infamous pirate leaders were kind to their crew, and were lauded and praised by their shipmates. The perception of pirates is that they only pillage and plunder, and contribute nothing. While modern day pirates are known for their robbery, pirates of the past were actually a very integral part of overseas trade. Many pirate ships adopted democratic basics, influenced by the Buccaneers, who were legally employed by the governments of the Caribbean in order to launch attacks on Spanish ships.
The Barbary Pirates originated off the North African coast. These pirates navigated all around the Mediterranean Ocean, and raided many European coastal towns. The pirates often captured ships near Spain, taking the captains hostage and pillaging all of the goods on the ship. The Barbary pirates are some of the first pirates documented in history. Their conquest first began in mid to late 1500s. Along the way, the Barbary pirates also garnered slaves whom they would only release if a ransom was paid. Captain Jack Ward was one of the most notorious and famous of all the Barbary pirates.
Piracy that took place in the Caribbean Sea first began around the 16th century and lasted until the mid-1800s. Pirates were rampant in this area of the world, particularly because at the time, there was no law in places such as Port Royal, Jamaica, to name a few. Because of this fact, pirates took over the waterways, capturing almost any ship that came their way. The most famous Caribbean pirate was Blackbeard. Originally named Edward Thatch, he performed piracy all along the North American coast as well as the Caribbean. Pirates of this origin were also known as buccaneers, which means that they operated their ship as a democracy, with their spoils divided up among crewmembers.
A privateer was a person authorized by their own government to attack foreign ships. Often compared to pirates, the privateers were sanctioned by their country of origin. The purpose of the privateers was to harass rival nations and to garner any excess items or spoils that happened to come their way in the event of an attack. The process of privateering was typically less brutal and often took place quickly and peacefully, however they often came in contact with pirates who were in no mood to fight. In many instances, privateers were killed or captured by wayward pirates. Most privateers hailed from Spain, Briton, the United States, or Bermuda.
The legend and image we all conjure when we think of pirates often makes us think of men with long, black hair, an eye patch, and a wooden peg leg. What many do not know is that there were actually famous women pirates as well. Anne Bonny is one of the most well-known women pirates in the world. Edward England, a successful Irish pirate, captured many ships over his piracy career. William Kidd was a privateer who was famous for his supposed buried treasure. Sir Francis Drake is another famous pirate, who was actually a noble navy privateer. Some other famous pirates from history include Thomas Tew, Howell Davis, Henry Morgan, and Mary Read.
Modern Day Piracy
Today, pirates are still out on the open seas. While the number of pirates has dwindled significantly, there are still small, rogue pirate boats that look for ships to capture. Somalia tends to have the highest number of modern day pirates, and have tried to capture several ships in recent years. Now, the US Navy and other military forces are patrolling the oceans looking for pirates and guarding private ships against piracy and violence.