Captain Tightpants

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About Captain Tightpants

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    Deck Hand
  • Birthday 12/25/1972

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    Easton, PA, USA
  1. tattoos

    Amaniria, I appreciate your attempt at maintaining the peace. Hugh I respectfully submit that your contention the history is not a science is complete and utter bunk. While not a "hard" science like physics or chemistry, it is a science with definite methodology. He who ignores this methodology, far from being an historian, is a dilettante. From Yeah. History ain't a science.
  2. tattoos

    Mr Madd, thanks for the clarification. Hugh, thanks for letting me in on your methodology. I understand perfectly, and applaud your efforts. Sorry I got my knickers in half a bunch. It's all good. Always and never, while efforts should be made to avoid it, is in reality quite difficult, because it is often necessary. No support for a thing or concept means that an historian is obliged to deny that thing or concept until supporting evidence is presented. That evidence can take many forms, in varying "tiers" of reliability. At the top is a primary source directly relating to the thing or concept; at the bottom is a chain of inferences based on peripheral primary sources and/or secondary/tertiary source material. The guideline written by Kass and included in the FAQ is more pertaining to how we say "always" or "never" than explaining the objective fact. "There is no evidence to support this" means just that, no matter how it's written. I happen to believe that adding words like, "in my research" or "to the best of my knowledge" is a waste of words, even though they soften the intellectual blow; perhaps that explains how I express myself. No matter how much you want one, and no matter how you phrase your perhaps impeccably logical argument, you can't have a T-Rex until somebody digs up some bones, savvy? Until other scholars can independently arrive at your conclusion based on the available evidence, they can only conclude that your conclusion is baseless (or at least announce that they'll believe it when they see it, which amounts to the same thing). The hard sciences are not immune to the same principle. Look at the current furor over global warming! That entire issue is based on speculation and inference, making independent experimentation - and thus, concrete answers - impossible. That doesn't stop people from believing in global warming with a crusading fervor that would warm the heart of Pope Urban II during an invasion of Jerusalem by surplus noble sons of Western Europe. But until it can be conclusively proved, there will be argument. In that case, there is evidence to support both sides, often the same evidence. Compared to that morass, our discussion here is simple and tame.
  3. tattoos

    Hugh, Let me make this abundantly clear: I have repeatedly acknowledged that you have documented tattoos to Europeans. I have praised you for a good job in so doing. I have no problem with admitting I was wrong. I have done so. You've hoisted me on my own petard. You have information I didn't have before you gave me that information. For some reason, you insist on throwing this into my face, as though I'm some sort of petulant child who refuses to see a simple fact instead of a discerning reader and historian who is simply casting doubt on some of your conclusions. It's obvious you want something further from me than my repeated admissions. What might that be? Do you just want to gloat, that you've defeated me? [shrug] Okay. You've WON. Here it is again: Hugh has proved that Europeans had tattoos, before, during and after GAoP. Okay? Mark the date on your calendar. Moving on. How much evidence would be enough? A record of more than one pirate having a tattoo, evidence of tattoos being common, that'd be best. That fulfills the axiom about not making the rare common and the common rare. Hell, I'd happily take evidence that Europeans weren't shamed by being tattooed. If I had evidence that a pirate - one pirate - proudly wore a tattoo, I'd call it a job well done, a good service to modern pirates who want to look historical. For all of our wrangling, you've done good work, Hugh. You've established that Europeans had tattoos. Now all we need to get to what people want is documentation supporting the concept that more than one pirate wore his tattoos as a mark of pride. Now can we please bury the hatchet - someplace other than my head - and get on with that process? P.S. And for the record, tap-dancing requires agility.
  4. tattoos

    Now that is interesting and useful data of which I was unaware. You're definitely onto something, there. In another field of slight interest to me - Irish clothing - much of what we think is true is reconstituted from repeated English prohibitions. We haven't got much at all to indicate what the Irish ca. 1500 wore other than that. This is the same sort of information, and that's good work, Hugh! Didn't mean to slap a change of rules on you. As I wrote above, I didn't realize until that moment that I was viewing this discussion from that too-narrow slant. The Atlantic and Caribbean pirates are my area of interest, you see. While the other areas are interesting (I love Dampier's records of his Pacific voyages, for example), I keep coming back there. So if it appears that I "sprung" that on you, I apologize; I didn't even know until too late that I was doing that. I have expanded my purview now, thanks to you. This is sociologically tricky. Again, I think this is a bit of a stretch. While they were indeed "outside the confines of polite society", it's widely known that they had their own society, much of which was recorded. A piece of that record has yet to be presented supporting tattooing, save one which painted the practice negatively. I readily and heartily admit that tattooing was possible. But that's as far as I can take it, and I still contend that possibility doesn't constitute proof for the practice. I have real problems with the assumption - heard again and again in Captain Twill - that pirates, being antisocial badasses, could have or would have done anything. Like I said, it just seems too big a stretch. This assumption seems to be based on what we see every day of social nonconformists in our modern society, like Goths or Punks or (dare I say it?) members of the modern "pirate lifestyle" (whatever that is). Our modern societal constraints aren't nearly as strong as those hundreds of years ago or even in the American 1950s; it is an hisoriographical mistake to assume otherwise. Nor does it invariably constitute proof of existence, Hugh. To use a trite example, we know eggs and olive oil were known in Palestine at the time of Christ. That doesn't mean they made mayonnaise. There is neither proof for nor against mayonnaise in the first century. There is sufficient knowledge of the history of mayonnaise to arrive at the conclusion that the sauce was unknown at that time in that area. We are arriving, in this thread, at the point of figuring out when mayonnaise made its first appearance in a certain time and place. Professor Martijn is correct that we mustn't lose sight of new data. New data is always a Godsend, especially in areas where we know comparatively little. On the other hand, please consider that he also lists the grains of salt with which that data must be taken. In not so many words, Martijn lays out a burden of proof upon both the data and the researcher's presentation of the data. The data is simply the data. The presentation of the data confers the preconceptions and biases of the researcher. It's a shame that it happens - and a good historian always makes every attempt to sever his preconceptions from his work - but it is folly to presume that it does not occur. To return to my earlier example of Irish clothing, the records - English all - must be carefully examined lest the overt bias of the recorder enter into our analysis. A knowledge of Anglo-Irish relations of the time is necessary as well as a knowledge of textile arts. Hugh, I'm trying very hard to determine why you think you're being disrespected here. So far as I know, I haven't written anything that could cause you to feel that way, as I have only been subjecting your presentation to the same sort of rigor I'd apply to my own. Let us, as you say, debate the facts and hypotheses. That's all I've been doing. Fair enough?
  5. tattoos

    Of course I concede the point. You win; one sailor in GAoP had a tattoo. Still doesn't make it common. Moreover, as Pat pointed out, he wanted it off. What does that say? Combined with your earlier evidence from the Spanish account, it says (to me) that, far from being something other mariners wished to emulate, tattoos were avoided by Europeans who wished to remain in the company of their countrymen without negative incident. That's evidence, albeit circumstantial, that tattoos were, while extant, extremely rare amongst Europeans. It occurs to me that we might be arguing at cross-purposes to a certain extent. My focus of study is on the areas which had high traffic by pirates, i.e., the waters of the Caribbean and North America, ca. 1680-1720. As such, I'm looking at a very narrow scope, compared to what you're finding. I'll try to keep that in mind as we continue. I look forward to seeing your translations! Tone it down, friend. Enough with the threats, okay? No one is attacking you; you have no need to snap. Persisting in ad hominem attacks does credit to neither you nor your scholarship. I never claimed infallibility; on the contrary, I disclaim it whenever possible, for I know my limits (see my post to HarborMaster). Like I asked before, let's keep this a civil academic discussion. Once this discussion degenerates into sniping, trolling and personal accusations, no one is going to be able to learn anything, myself included.
  6. tattoos

    HarborMaster, One of the unfortunate things about history is that it is fragmented. First, no one person can possess the detailed information of which you speak; such a study would be the effort of a lifetime and would, at the end of that life, remain incomplete for a variety of reasons. Second, since evidence is fragmentary, we have to do the best we can with what we've got. Historiography is a lot like assembling a case for court. You gather your evidence and make your case. If you charge a fellow with murder and cannot prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant walks. The same principle holds in historical discussions. That's not to say that you have to have an iron-clad case to convince the jury; if you can bring enough circumstantial evidence to the jury, they can agree that, even with a lack of direct evidence, the probability of the defendant being guilty is extremely high. In discussions like this, an iron-clad case would be a contemporaneous account giving evidence that seamen in GAoP had tattoos. For example, if Dampier (or a Spaniard or Portuguese or Frenchman) wrote, "On the 23d of February, 1711, Second Mate Hutchins, along with John Macek and Rob't Davis did, while ashore and besotted with Drink, have their arms stain'd with Figures in the native fashion, whereupon they returned to the Vessel moments before weighing Anchor.", I'd congratulate the person who found the quote. Circumstantial evidence could be something along the lines of: "De Villiers noted in his diary that they found a shipwrecked mariner, William O'Dwyer, who was taken aboard. He also noted that the rescued mariner had had tattoos applied by friendly natives. Another account, by Francois le Chevre, lists a W. O'Dwyer on another pirate vessel's manifest five years later." That's good evidence, but only that one pirate had tattoos. It says nothing about O'Dwyer's crewmates getting tattoos, just that he had one. Still, it's a reasonable assumption that other mariners had similar experiences. On the other hand, it's still not proof that other pirates had tattoos. In short, to a very large degree, you're right - no one person has a handle on all seafaring practices everywhere. But to do what I'm doing in this discussion, you don't need that knowledge. You need to know how to practice history. For that I am well-qualified, with university training.
  7. tattoos

    Hugh, no one is deriding you. Hell, I'm not even deriding your arguments. I'm debating you based on a different viewpoint. If I were deriding you, I'd be engaging in ad hominem attacks; i.e., calling you a poopiehead. I think you'll find I'm not doing that. All I'm saying is that I find your conclusions too much of a stretch. To paraphrase Prof. Tolkien, "There's no evil there except that which you bring." You are 100% correct in these assessments, except the one about changing the rules, which I never did. I'm simply asking you to see how much of a stretch it is to go from Europeans going native - and choosing, for whatever reason, not to rejoin their countrymen - and seamen in GAoP adopting the practice of tattooing. In all of your evidence, you haven't yet made that connection. And until that connection is made through documentation, no amount of exercises in logic can convince me to support it. That's all! No need to get hot under the collar! I think you're doing fabulous work, and I'm glad to participate in this discussion. Let's keep it good-natured, shall we?
  8. tattoos

    Silkie, First, I stole all of that directly from Kass's website. Her rules, and they're good ones! Second, yes, it's within the realm of possibility. But being possible doesn't make it so. If we're seeking after what we know was done, there's still a reasonable doubt, because conclusive evidence has not yet come to light. That is, in my (admittedly not so humble) opinion, not an area for a judgment call. I can't answer for Kass, but I think she feels the same way. Neither of us wants you to be insulted; no one is casting aspersions on your judgment. You and I simply disagree that this is an area in which can be made an educated guess. Let me see if I can make myself more clear with an analogy. Say we have loads of evidence that English landsmen of certain classes corresponding with mariners wore coats of a certain cut. Say every picture extant shows examples of this coat. Now, say we have no information at all telling us exactly what English mariners wore. It is a safe reasonable assumption that mariners wore if not a coat of the same cut, something remarkably similar. Why? Because the mariners are from the same parent culture as the landsmen, and even though they're mariners spend a lot of time on land. I see a tremendous gulf between that and adopting tattoos. As evidenced by Hugh's quote, not only was such a practice unknown in the parent culture, the presence of the tattoos and piercings would have occasioned ridicule from the "conformists". Of course, your mileage may vary! In dialectic, it is impossible to prove a negative. We can only prove a positive. Thus, it is impossible to prove that tattoos never existed. It is possible to prove they did, should evidence be found. The responsible historian will assume that a thing never existed without evidence to the contrary. That's something I learned in my college Historiography class. At the same time, the responsible historian will applaud when evidence is brought to light which proves a thing existed. Hell, historians make enough errors even with reams of evidence! Why broaden the field?
  9. tattoos

    Hugh, Again, nice quote! We're getting ever closer. Now we've evidence that Europeans were "stained". I'm still going to disagree with your original premise. Please allow me to select what I find a very telling quote from your post: This indicates that such things were Not Done amongst the Europeans. Gonzalo Guerrero was begging off having to go visit his countrymen after having gone almost completely native. Instead of giving evidence for tattoos and earrings amongst sailors, you've provided very strong proof of the opposite! It indicates that a European wouldn't be caught dead in the stuff. As you say, it's considerably early for GAoP.
  10. tattoos

    Again, all good points, Hugh. Unfortunately my stance remains that no matter how much logical sense it makes, it is still speculation, and equivocal speculation at that. When documentary or pictorial evidence appears of European sailors in GAoP being marked with what we'd call "tattoos", I shall be the first to cheerfully add it to my collection of footnotes. But for the nonce I must remain unconvinced. That tattooing was known to European sailors - and to civilians on the European mainland - is not proof, positive or negative, that either sailors or civilians would have adopted the practice. There are, as you note, many accounts of Europeans coming into contact with aboriginal peoples during their travels, but you must admit that accounts of those Europeans "going native" are few and far between; of those accounts, the overwhelming majority make note of the extreme duress of the experience. The logical conclusion is, therefore, that those men actively rejected their "hosts" as savages. Dampier made note of this impulse in his Pacific voyage notes. Dampier also noted the prolonged exposure of his shipmates to (tattooed!) Polynesian cultures during his Pacific voyage(s), but even such an inveterate note-taker and diarist as Dampier - who noted his experiences in extreme detail - made no mention of any of his European colleagues adopting the body-decoration practices of their "hosts". He did record that some of those men took native wives and were loath to leave the place, but so far as I am aware he never mentioned them adopting the practices of their wives' culture. The only responsible conclusion, therefore, is that the men retained their European perspective, as any deviance would have been remarked upon. Again, Hugh, while your information is interesting, it offers only sufficient support to indicate that tattoos on Europeans is possible. That "staining" was possible does not mean it was probable except through stretch of the researcher's imagination. So we'll have to agree to disagree, methinks.
  11. tattoos

    Good one, Hugh! Thanks for the information! I still can't help but ask, "Okay, but where's the evidence that nautical men adopted the practice?" Some more investigation is in order...
  12. tattoos

    A cursory Internet delving into the etymology of the word "tattoo" leads this author to believe that tattoos were if anything unknown to Western Europe in GAoP. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Thus, while the art of tattooing is quite old indeed - cf Maori and Polynesian culture - it was first recorded by Cook in the latter 18th century, some fifty years after the Golden Age of Piracy. I will skim Dampier when I get a chance to see if he records tattooed humans in his South Pacific and Central American travels. Frankly, I doubt any such reference will be found; I think I'd remember it. * "tattoo." The American HeritageĀ® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 24 Jul. 2007. <>.
  13. tattoos

    To that end, Mr Bagley, I have taken the liberty of beginning a FAQ, which Kass has kindly Stickied to the top of the Captain Twill thread list page.
  14. Captain Twill - FAQ

    Are you interested in what really happened in the Golden Age of Piracy? Do you want to separate fact from fiction? Excellent! Welcome to Captain Twill! Like the main Forums page says, Captain Twill is for "Academic talk on maritime history, research, & interesting info". Does this mean fun is not allowed? Of course not. It does mean that we discuss things in an often rigorous academic way. Some people come into Captain Twill and get confused or upset at the differences. The tone of the discussions here can be very much different than the rest of the Pub. If you don't know about that, Captain Twill can be an upsetting place. So here's a FAQ to read, which (hopefully) will help you successfully participate in Captain Twill discussions in a meaningful way. 1. Why are you guys such jerks? We're not. Really! Even so, topics can sometimes get heated. History is seldom cut and dried. Opinions can differ, often wildly, among historians, each of which is eager to defend her position. Even though that's often the case, it is never acceptable to engage in ad hominem attacks. 2. What is "Academic talk"? "Academic talk" means precisely that. Should you make statements in a historical discussion, write only that which you can support by documentation. Whether that's a book, contemporaneous evidence, personal experience attempting to perform a period task, or similar, 'documentation' does not mean "supporting" your ideas with something along the lines of "I can only imagine that this was so". In other words, if you're going to come in here and make statements, you must be prepared to support them in an academic fashion. Does this mean you have to have a college degree? Nope. Just read how others write. Let me give you some examples: Good: "Captain Chuckles wrote of tattooed savages in his book, Voyage to a New Worlde." Better: MLA citation or equivalent. See this website. Good: "I happened to be working in the rigging of the Kalmar Nyckel, and I can tell you that bare feet suck on ropes; when I wore shoes - yes, leather-soled period shoes - I was utterly secure aloft." 3. How do I do good research? Here's the whole skinny, taken from Moderator Kass's website: Good Research Techniques 18/12/2006 Don't Make the Rare Common and the Common Rare You find a picture of an unusual outfit and you want to wear it to the next event. The picture dates to the time and place of the event, but you've never seen anything like the outfit in the picture before. Is it documentable? The answer is that the outfit probably is documentable to that time and place, but reconstructing this outfit and wearing it to a reenactment event is a bad idea. If this is the only picture of such an outfit, that makes it a rarity. And at reenactments and living history events, we are meant to be accurately portraying people from a certain place and time in history. It will not do to represent a rarity unless there is a specific lesson to be learned from it. Don't Document Backwards So you fell in love with Kiera Knightly's undergown when she gets stranded on the island in Pirates of the Carribean I (you know, the one with the lacing on the sleeves?). But now you're going to a Golden Age of Piracy living history event and you want to wear it. Is it period? This is called "Backwards Documentation" and it is always a bad idea. The truth is that you want to wear the dress so you will take the smallest bit of evidence that justifies its existence. You'll substantiate the sleeves from one gown and the body of another, ignoring the fact that one is from 15th century Italy and the other 12th century Romania, and neither can be traced to Port Royal in the early 18th century. Don't Do "I'm A Pirate and I Stole It" to Justify Having Unusual Things You love your fancy earrings and never take them off. So you don't want to take them off for the living history event. So you search all the only art sites for a portrait of such earrings. And you find one! It's in an engraving of a South American woman in native dress. Yay! The problem is that you portray an Englishman. Many people will say, "Well, I am a pirate and I went to that part of the world and brought this back with me." While this seems logical to us, it doesn't make it good documentation. There were something like 5000 pirates during the years 1680-1725 and we have many pictures of the more famous ones. But none of them are wearing bits and pieces of native dress. Beware Generalizations Just because something is period-appropriate for 13th century England doesn't mean it was used in Germany... or in 16th century England. Be precise. Focus on a time and place and be specific. Use Primary Sources Nothing beats a primary source. You can argue and argue and argue that darts aren't period, but when you find them on a 16th century gown in a bog find, you can't argue with that! Know Your Source and Beware of Bias It is very valuable to know who your source was. In Irish research, many sources are Englishmen who were trying to discredit the Irish. These sources are not reliable because of their obvious bias. Investigate who your source was and how he came to represent the clothing of the people in question. Also, some paintings are allegorical or fantastical. These cannot be trusted to accurately mirror the kind of clothing that was worn by real people. After all, if you were a painter, would you paint the Greek god Apollo in a three-piece business suit? Never Say Never (or Always) Frankly, this is a hard one for me to remember. When I feel passionately about something (like the Irish never having worn kilts), I get practically evangelical! It is safer to say, "No evidence exists of this," or "The current research supports this." Try to avoid saying, "They always did this" or "That was never done in period." Unless, of course, it's something totally provable like, "They never used polyester." Three Equals One Although it is not absolutely or always true, three separate secondary sources can be used in place of one primary source. Of course you must be careful when doing this substitution. Sometimes the secondary sources come from the same artist or "school" and you find that they are copying each other, not the reality of the clothing they portray. In this case, it is best to do a little research into the history of your source. If, for example, you have three paintings of a chemise, they are all by different and unrelated painters, and they occur in the same time period, they are reasonably reliable as sources. "Lack of Evidence Against" does not Equal "Proof For" Perhaps you have heard the phrase "you cannot prove a negative". This is true. However, if you cannot prove the positive, you are not documenting anything. If, for example, no evidence exists of men wearing neckties in the Middle Ages, it doesn't mean they did. "They could have" isn't documentation. It's guessing. If you cannot find an example in a period source, it is best not to assume its existence. Just because it makes sense to modern people doesn't mean it existed in the Middle Ages. "Traditional" does not necessarily mean "Ancient" Many countries' National Costume are based on folk costumes dating no earlier than the 19th century. Do not assume that because they are traditional, they date to the Middle Ages or before. After all, 21st century Americans don't wear Colonial short gowns and petticotes (unless we are Colonial re-enactors too!). Why should people from other countries be wearing clothing from centuries before? Even in more traditional cultures, fashions change. Assuming that "old" equals "medieval" is a trap. Beware of it. Types of Sources It is best to define types of sources and their levels of usefulness so that you may judge what will be helpful and what will be a waste of your time. The best source for historical clothing is an extant example of the garment. Extant means that someone dug the garment out of a bog, grave or cess pit (rarely do garments from the Middle Ages survive in someone's closet as have garments from the Colonial period and American Civil War) and it is preserved in a state that it can be studied by archeologists and anthropologists. This is known as a primary source. In terms of documentation for material culture, paintings are secondary sources. The painter is in effect "telling" you what the garment looked like. You are not looking at it yourself. Even though you may think that a picture is worth a thousand words, paintings can lie. The artists that made them were not tailors. They may have missed an important seam here or there, or drawn the drape of the gown differently because it "looked better." Also, in most of the medieval period, the concept of "perspective" was not yet known in painting. This makes it difficult to figure out what people and their clothing really looked like. However, they are still useful sources, especially when used in conjunction with primary and tertiary sources. However, paintings are primary sources for painting techniques, pigments, canvas and other things that can be garnered from the study of a painting. Verbal descriptions are either secondary or tertiary sources. The author is either describing the garment to you (secondary) or describing a painting or description he witnessed of the garment (tertiary). These are the least reliable sources. However, sometimes they are all we have. When used along with other types of sources, they can be useful. Some paintings are also tertiary sources. If the painter based his work on a verbal description or someone else's painting and not real life, it is a tertiary source. Ā© 2002, 2003 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies. 4. So how do I participate? That's easy! Read, read, read. If you happen upon a thread in which you think you might contribute, pen your thoughts (subject to the above). 5. What if I have a question? That's the whole reason for Captain Twill: to answer questions. So ask away! But before you click on the "New Topic" button, do yourself and the rest of us a favor - click the "Search" link towards the top of the page. There are a bunch of questions that get answered over and over again, and endless repetition makes people a little testy. So search the Forums for terms surrounding your question. For example, if you want information on "authentic" "sea" "chests", search those three words. There will be more here, I'm certain, as people weigh in. So weigh in!
  15. tattoos

    Though others have stated the true state of affairs well, I'm going to weigh in. No one who's serious about history and historical accuracy will ever make that statement. We well know that we can never be truly accurate. So no admission is necessary. Just understand that we, the people who are devoted to historical accuracy, hear statements like that all the time from people who want to be perceived as authenticists but who are unwilling to put their money where their mouths are. That we do bathe and have modern dental prosthetics has nothing to do with how accurate we are in visible ways, nor has it anything to do with our knowledge of history. I'm afraid you're not seeing the difference between Captain Twill and the rest of the Pyracy Pub. As is very clearly stated on the front page of the Forums, Captain Twill is for "Academic talk on maritime history, research, & interesting info". Does this mean fun is not allowed? Of course not. It does mean that we discuss things in a rigorous academic way. That means writing things you can support by documentation, whether that's a book, contemporaneous evidence, personal experience attempting to perform a period task, or something like that. That does not mean "supporting" your ideas with something along the lines of "I can only imagine that this was so". In other words, if you're going to come in here and make statements, you must be prepared to support them in an academic fashion. Does this mean you have to have a college degree? Nope. Just read how others write. I think we need a FAQ sticky - what is Captain Twill? What can you expect to read? What do the denizens of CT consider "academic talk" (and its inverse)?