The things we see in the movies are often outlandish and unbelievable or even downright crazy. But, their portrayal of pirates is quite accurate. The mid-1600’s till the early 1700’s is known as the Golden Age of Piracy. This was the era when pirates ruled the seas and oceans, looting cargo vessels and capsizing government ships. They were infamously known for their notorious activity of buying, selling and stealing illegal goods around the world.
Commonly the flag displayed a black flag with skull and bones (Jolly Roger) at the inception of piracy. But this later changed to various colours and designs to show the uniqueness of each pirate crew. Unlike the movies, most pirates were not rich. In fact, they lived on the bare minimum, escaping from the navy fleets. Their treasures often consisted of important goods, liquor, and food rather than precious gems, gold or diamonds.
However, some pirates were quite rich and famous. One such pirate was – Edward Teach ‘Blackbeard’. Blackbeard was one of the most terrifying and notorious pirates of all time. He would put hemp in his beard and light it up to create a terrifying image for his enemies. After years of piracy, he died at the hands of the Navy in 1718. However, his vast treasure was never found. His ship – ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’ was found by archaeologists, but the treasure was missing. Even today, treasure hunters are searching for the massive treasures of Blackbeard.
Other famous pirates are William Kidd (1645 – 1701), Bartholomew Roberts “Black Bart” (1682 – 1722), Calico Jack Rackham (1682 – 1720), Sir Henry Morgan (1635 – 1688) and Henry Every “Long Ben” (1653 – unknown). A common misconception is that pirates are only men, however, there were a lot of notorious female pirates. Anne Bonny was a petrifying female pirate in the 1700’s. She disguised herself as a man and worked under the command of Jack Rackham and Mary Read (another female pirate). When Rackham was captured, the Navy discovered the true identity of the disguised female. She was later prisoned and given a death sentence. However, she was released from prison due to her pregnancy. After this, she escaped from the navy and was never to be seen again. Till date, no one truly knows what happened to her.
After the Golden Age of Piracy, the navy hunted down the pirates around the world. Piracy was restrained through the years, but even today pirates exist. Their methods and equipment might have changed, but their motivation to loot and steal still remains the same. They often hide behind government flags or in waters where no Government has jurisdiction. This makes them really difficult to arrest. They usually rule over the waters near Somalia, Red Sea and South East Asia.
However, it is a common misconception that pirates are bad and evil, this is not entirely true. While they were not completely “good”, they worked for the better of the community, sort of like Robin Hood. One French pirate – Jean Lafitte fought for his country against the British. Previously mentioned, Pirate William Kidd was actually supported by the British government to stop other pirates. Even today, the Somalian pirates work for the betterment of their community and are even encouraged by it. After the collapse of their government, neighbouring countries took advantage of the situation to perform illegal activities like dumping waste and fishing in Somalian waters. Furious local fishermen turned into pirates and put a restriction on such activities. So, I’ll leave it up to you to judge their character.