Swashbuckler 1700

When was the Golden Age of Piracy?

61 posts in this topic

[split from Period hanging methods.]

William Fly and his company were hanged in 1726, and John Upton went to the gallows in 1728 eating a biscuit. And there was a pirate crew hanged in Williamsburg VA in 1729. There were also lots of pirate executions outside the GAoP If memory serves a bunch of people were hanged for piracy in London in the 1730s too.

The Golden age, after all, is just a later invented time period. ( since there were pirates in late 1720s too I think best end of gaop is the year 1730). Of course pirate operation decreased because of RN etc. but I think the main reason why post 1724/ 25 pirates are not so known is that GHOP was made in 1724. B)

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Possibly, except that the pirates being hanged in 1725 that I quoted above were from John Gow's company, and he has a chapter in the GHoP.

I can't remember if there's a thread already about defining the 'Golden Age' here...

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This is one of SB1700's pet topics based on pm discussions we've had due to the fact that he doesn't think I defined it right on my website. (I sort of plucked them out of the air, so I know I'm wrong. OTOH, there is little agreement on this by anyone, so I know I'm right. ("Truly, you have a dizzying intellect." "Wait till I get going!") Now, where was I?)

The Golden Age of Piracy took place sometime around the turn of the 17th/18th centuries, but the edges are incredibly ragged. Everyone defines it differently based on whatever episode of piracy that occurred around that time that they want to focus upon and based on the fact that they want that year to end in a 5 or a 0 because it looks cleaner that way. (OTOH, it's the kind of picayune bit of nonsense we sometimes get into shockingly silly tussels over, so here we go...)

A quick Google search produces the following results from the first page:

Wikipedia: "In its broadest accepted definition, the Golden Age of Piracy spans from the 1650s to the 1730s..."

The UnMuseum: "This period started soon after the discovery of the New World and continued for about 250 years."

The Pirate Encyclopedia: "The Golden Age of Piracy covers the time period around the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth - from about 1690-1730, particularly."

Cindy Vallar's Site: "The height of plundering lasted about a decade from 1715-1725"

Reefs, Wrecks and Rascals: "the era lasted from around 1700 until 1730"

Wisegeek: "The Golden Age of Piracy was a period between roughly 1650 and 1720 when piracy on the Atlantic Ocean reached astounding levels."

Chacha.com: "Piracy was widespread from the 15th to the 18th Century AD."

Angus Konstam's Pirate Blog: "The so-called Golden Age of Piracy was a phrase coined by pirate novelists and historians to describe the period from between 1695 and 1730, when all the best-known pirates were in business."

About.com: "the so-called "Golden Age" of Piracy, which lasted roughly from 1700 to 1725"

Viola! None of the top rated sites for this question agree with one another. You may as well try to catch a will-o-wisp as try and define the dates accurately.

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It depends also because some think that buccaneers were in Gaop other Don't. I don't like that buccaneer + other pirates gaop and I like more of that gaop that has only actual pirates ( 1690s- 1730)

Edited by Swashbuckler 1700

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It's one of those things that will never be pinpointed unless an expert like J.R. Moore comes along and tells us how it should be defined.

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So based on the experts we can say, without hesitation, that part of the Golden Age of Piracy was 1715-1720. Or whenever.

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I don't know if I'd call them experts - they're just the top bunch of websites that come up with an answer when you was Google when the Golden Age of Piracy occurred. One way I suppose you could define it is to look at all the pirates in the two books of the History of the Pirates that Johnson wrote and see when the first one went a-pirating (excluding the ones clearly outside the golden age like those who captured Caesar) and when the last one got caught. Although, even then, I think Foxe may have documented examples of pirates that aren't included in those books. (See? Fuzzy.)

Swashbuckler1700 brings up a good point (and one Wikipedia sort of agrees with when you read the fine print): there were the buccaneers and there were the pirates. They're not really the same thing. Wiki goes a step further and defines a third period (just to confuse things):

  1. the buccaneering period of approximately 1650 to 1680, characterized by Anglo-French seamen based on Jamaica and Tortuga attacking Spanish colonies and shipping in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific,
  2. the Pirate Round of the 1690s, associated with long-distance voyages from Bermuda and the Americas to rob Muslim and East India Company targets in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, and
  3. the post-Spanish Succession period, defined by Marcus Rediker as extending from 1716 to 1726, when Anglo-American sailors and privateers left unemployed by the end of the War of the Spanish Succession turned en masse to piracy in the Caribbean, the American eastern seaboard, the West African coast, and the Indian Ocean.

Curiously, this doesn't completely agree with their statement that "the Golden Age of Piracy spans from the 1650s to the 1730s".

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My statement was as tongue-in-cheek as I could manage from a thread that can only be speculative or opinion. I generally just say late 1600s, early 1700s.

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Oh, I understood. I just wanted to be clear on how I'd come up with that info. I personally think it's funny that no one can agree. It's yet another example of how hard it is to pin things down when you're talking about stuff that happened so long ago. It's like you can't comfortably participate in discussions about the finer points of this topic unless you can accept ambiguity.

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I say that we get ridiculously specific. Let's call the Golden Age everything from three fourths of the way into 1667 through the first four and a half weeks of 1729, minus September 14th-19th of 1701 and the better part of 1727 apart from Good Friday, Halloween and Defoe's birthday.

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The reason, I suspect, that nobody can really reach a consensus over when the Golden Age of Piracy (hereafter GAoP) was, is that there's no real consensus over what the GAoP was. Usually, if pressed for a reason, people say something inane and meaningless about the number of pirates active, or the 'best known' pirates being around. To be honest, they might as well say 'when pirates wore tricorns'. Accepting for a moment that we're talking about Anglo-American pirates (as the Anglo-American authors who tend to use the phrase generally are), then the number of pirates active is not the best definition, because there were probably just as many, possibly more, English pirates active in the second decade of the 17th century as there were in the early 18th century. Neither does it really make sense, to me, to define it by the best known pirates being active because then there are problems with cause and effect: is it the GAoP because those pirates were active, or are they the best known because they were active in the GAoP? At it's widest the GAoP is sometimes defined as beginning with Drake and co in the late 16th century and ending with Blackbeard and co in the early 18th. At its narrowest, the GAoP is defined as encapsulating only the decade from around 1715-1725. Whatever the time-frame, all are agreed at the the GAoP includes those pirates active in the 17teens and early 1720s, so in order to define the GAoP I think it's best to start by examining what it was about that period that was different from other periods when piracy flourished. If we can establish what marks those years out then we can see how far those criteria can be stretched in either direction. ("Truly, you have a dizzying intellect." "Wait till I get going!")

So, just for the fun of it, here's a few considerations which I think mark the GAoP apart from other periods when piracy flourished.

1. Pirates of the GAoP identified themselves as pirates. This sounds banal, but it isn't. The buccaneers of Morgan's day, for example, made every effort to appear to be legitimate privateers - they would take commissions from foreign powers, even forge them if they had to, but they generally made sure that there was some veneer of legitimacy. So too did many or most of the pirates active in the early 19th century, manyof whom allied themselves with the South American states in rebellion against the Spanish Empire. But, people like Bart Roberts, Blackbeard and Edward Low made no pretence about being pirates.

2. Pirates of the GAoP operated in bands, loosely connected to one another, forming a pirate 'community'. They were not the first or the last to do it, but the scale of it was truly staggering. Rediker (love him or hate him) has shown quite conclusively that around 90% of all the Anglophone pirate companies active in 1715-1725 belonged to one of two bands who all, to some extent, knew one another. Moreover, it is clear they felt a genuine bond existed between them: Blackbeard burned all Boston ships he came across because of Bostonians hanging men from Bellamy's crew; Roberts attacked the Leeward Islands because they were holding some pirates in prison there; Spriggs vowed to hunt down Walter Moore for finishing off Lowther's company, etc.

3. Pirates of the GAoP presented a major and genuine threat to legitimate trade. This is partly linked to the cohesion of the pirate community mentioned in point 2, and partly to do with numbers, but during the GAoP pirates were more of a threat to legitimate shipping than any other danger of the sea. More anti-pirate legislation was enacted between 1715 and 1725 than at any other time, and pirate activity made a definite impact on maritime insurance rates.

4. Pirates of the GAoP were not tied to any particular port or area for their sustenance. Some pirates of the GAoP remained at sea for years at a time without putting into the same port more than once or twice. If we take Anstis' company as an example, some of them had been at sea from 1718 to 1723 without ever having a safe base. Conversely...

5. Pirates of the GAoP established bases which were more or less entirely populated by pirates or their supporters. Principally I'm thinking of New Providence here, which from 1716-1718 was held by pirates. Anyone who didn't like living with pirates left.

So, IF we accept those things as being defining characteristics of the GAoP (and of course, others may not agree with me) then I think we can discount the buccaneers since they, at best, meet only criterion 2. The pirates of the early 17th century meet 1 and 2, and maybe 3. Most pirates of the 19th century meet only criteria 1 or 5. Pirates of the 16th century meet none of the criteria.

However, many of the pirates involved in the 'Pirate Round' of the 1690s meet all five criteria, and for that reason I think that they should be included in any definition of the GAoP. Moreover, many people, like William, generalise and say late17th-early18th centuries. That being the case, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that we can actually pinpoint the dates of the beginning and end of the GAoP.

13 October 1691. The Bachelor's Delight, commanded by George Raynor, arrived at St. Mary's Island, Madagascar, and became the first pirate ship to resupply at Adam Baldridge's trading post which had been set up in May 1691. Baldridge's trading post enabled pirates sailing from America and England to remain in the Indian Ocean and plunder shipping in the Red Sea indefinitely, until they'd made enough money to make it worth going home and retiring from piracy: Robert Culliford stayed in the East for nearly ten years. Because they no longer needed to return home between cruises the Indian Ocean pirates were able to throw off the pretence of being privateers, and their perpetual presence in the Eastern seas not only made it extremely dangerous for legitimate shipping, but also aroused the ire of the Indian merchants against English-speaking traders to the point that they nearly ejected them from India twice in the 1690s. Baldridge's trading post also offered a communal base where pirates from different crews could meet and mix, and so a community was formed: John Ireland, for example, sailed under or alongside Henry Every, Thomas Tew, Robert Culliford and Richard Shivers - four of the most prolific pirates of the 17th century - and spent some time at Baldridge's place.

The end of the GAoP is a little harder to define so precisely, but if pressed I'd say the beginning of the end occurred on 9 February 1722, on which day Bartholomew Roberts band was destroyed by HMS Swallow. Certainly, there were pirates active after that date, and in fact the Lowther-Low group hadn't even begin operations then, but the Lowther-Low group of pirates never really made the same impact on trade that the earlier pirates had, and there was never more than three of them operating at once. The last pirates active with any link to the great days of Roberts and Blackbeard were the company commanded by John Philips (who had sailed under Anstis) and his quartermaster John Rose Archer (who had sailed under Blackbeard). Their effective end came at about 11.15 am, 18 April 1724.

Is that precise enough for you William?

Yours etc, J.R. Moore.

Um, I mean, Foxe.

(And, FWIW, there were more pirate captains active in the GAoP who are not covered by Johnson than there were whom he did cover.)

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Is that precise enough for you William?

Wait, what? I didn't start the thread. However, I love your specific citations. I'm not a creature of precise dates when framing the GAoP end to end, only because I play comfortably within a time frame that most people can agree on, but I loved your examples. More people should know the years and names of pirates during the individual 'Golden ages' of those pirates.

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Wow.

Lovely Mr. Moore

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Wait, what? I didn't start the thread.

No, but you did say:

I say that we get ridiculously specific.

(And in case anyone is in doubt, those dates are real, you can check 'em)

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Why am I quoted most often when I'm being patently absurd on purpose?

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So, according to J.R., my website was pretty much right after all - even though I pulled those dates out of my...ear. (Either that or I got them out of a discussion at the Pirateinfo site with Ed. :lol: )

Why am I quoted most often when I'm being patently absurd on purpose?

Use more smilies. ;)

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I think that end of gaop there is few milestones so to speak

1. 1718 W.Rogers to the Bahamas, Death of Bonnet and Blackbeard. Pirates have harder times than before that. Other pirate executions

2. 1722 death of Roberts, pirate executions

‚Äč3. 1726 William fly's execution. pirate executions

4. 1730 La Buse's death. Final end of Gaop.

since whole decades look better than fives I prefer 1730 and not 1725....

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Ah, but what makes Fly a 'Golden Age' pirate? What makes him different from, say, Richard Coyle, who was hanged in 1738?

La Buse was certainly a Golden Age pirate, but since he was basically insignificant after Taylor's departure from the Indian Ocean in 1722, is he enough to justify the subsequent period being labelled the GAoP?

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Well Fly was a pirate and operated in the same time as some of the Low's company. It was all that early 18th C pirate frenzy that Fly was a member of.

I think that death of la Buse showed that even inactive pirate can be get caught.

Edited by Swashbuckler 1700

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(And, FWIW, there were more pirate captains active in the GAoP who are not covered by Johnson than there were whom he did cover.)

You know, it's too bad when we were making that list of Pirate Nationalities (Origins) over at the Pirateinfo forum that we didn't indicate which were the captains and what their years of activity were. (And their date of death, original sources where they were found, ships taken, life histories, major prosthetics, whether they owned a parrot or not...&c. ;) )

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But we all agree that gaop ended by 1730 but was it 1725 or 1730 there is little matter.....

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Well Fly was a pirate and operated in the same time as some of the Low's company. It was all that early 18th C pirate frenzy that Fly was a member of.

Fly was a pirate that operated at the same time as some of Low's company, but was he really a 'member of' the early 18th century pirate frenzy?

It's a rhetorical question really. The point I'm trying to make is that what is important about the 'Golden Age' of piracy is not so much when it was, as what it was.

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Well-spoken! J.R. Moore

oops I mean Foxe

At least there were lots of ugly dudes called pirates in early 1700s who had ships, weapons and murderous intentions ....

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If we would look age of the most pirates ever active ( per capita at least) it well may be that let's say there were most pirates in antique Roman times.

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Properly speaking if we think with Foxe's logic (not bad logic at all)John quelch and Wynne were not gaop pirates at all they had no connections to others.....

Edited by Swashbuckler 1700

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