AO Magazine - June 2022
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"In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labor; in this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst, is only a sour look or two at choking.
No, a merry life and a short one, shall be my motto."
- Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts
Black Bart was a successful pirate during the Golden Age of Piracy. He captured and looted more ships than many of his contemporaries, had his own fleet of four ships and hundreds of men following his orders, and he died as he had wished – he was just 40 years old when he was killed in action by pirate hunters in 1722.
Black Bart wasn’t alone in seeing the allure of piracy. It’s estimated that during the Gold Age of Piracy there were more than 5000 pirates. You know many of their names: Henry Morgan, William 'Captain' Kidd, 'Calico' Jack Rackham, and the fearsome Blackbeard (Edward Teach). They were notorious and when other ships saw the black flag flying, they knew they were in for a horrifying encounter.
Things changed with the popularity of books such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Pirates became linked to stories of buried treasure and adventure. They were swashbucklers and plunderers with eyepatches, men who kept parrots on their shoulders and said things like “Avast me hearty!” Pirates became increasingly gentler, and even fun, over the years. I remember watching gentlemen pirates like the ludicrous Captain Hook in the film Hook, and charming rogues like the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride and Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. But the tides have shifted again, and with current world events we’re remembering that piracy isn’t all fun and games…or a thing of the past.
This issue reveals real stories of pirates. We trace their journeys from the havens of Port Royal to the Indian Ocean. Along the way we reveal the origins of the Jolly Roger, pirate codes of conduct, and the punishments awaiting the men who stepped out of line. We even debunk some popular myths – forget buried treasures and walking the plank! Terrorism and piracy expert Dr. Peter Lehr highlights the similarities and differences between pirates from the past and present, providing a fuller picture of the history of piracy, why people become pirates, and techniques to eradicate piracy.