Swashbuckler 1700

When was the Golden Age of Piracy?

61 posts in this topic

In 1713, Col. James Moore II, with his younger brother at his side, became noted for leading the southern colony’s militia, bolstered by a force of friendly Indians, in the defeat of the Tuscarora in North Carolina.

Never thought I would see anyone reference the assault on Fort Noherooka in North Carolina (where hundreds of Tuscarora Indians were killed and hundreds taken prisoner and sold into slavery). Dr. Larry Tise at East Carolina University is actually working on getting public awareness of that event since next year is the 300 aniversary of it (I've been working on it with him)

Anyway, I love stuff like that Kevin, for it adds so much context to the pirate events of the time. Some writers on pirate history make pirate history feel like it took place in a vacuum and had minimal influence from the outside world. Thank goodness recent scholarship on pirates is finally tying in the politics of early eighteenth century world into this. Recent work by Ed Fox and Arne Bialewshewski have discussed the role of the Jacobite rebellions within the pirate world for example. Thank you for pursuing such history Mr. Duffus, and I hope to see some publications on the subject soon.

But back to the thread topic of Defining the Golden Age of Piracy. Has anyone proposed that maybe we should do away with the term "Golden Age" outright? I feel like by this point in pirate historiography that the term "Golden Age of Piracy" has almost lost its meaning and is used to give the era a romantic feel to it (and an easier way in which to remember when this all took place). I think a more interesting question that might help people undestand and learn more about history during the period is - what allowed and what caused pirates to go sea, do so in large numbers, and operate over significant periods of time from the 16th to early 19th centuries? If answered correctly, one can learn a lot about the development of colonies, economics, politics, and more during this very important period in world history.

What?

History doesn't happen in a vacuum?

Events in one place affect others?

Really?

:rolleyes:

What is that so.. Oh my vision of the world has been destroyed!

Seriously indeed it is not good to be stuck only in "gaop" period and forget the big picture.

Edited by Swashbuckler 1700

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, I'd say we should stick with the Golden Age of Piracy moniker, even though it violates my recognition of the fact that history is quite messy when you really look into it.

I think we should stick with the moniker simply because we will stick with it, whether we like it or not. Since there is no governing body of historians to determine which phrases are or aren't allowed there will always be people using the phrase and others like it. It's no more or less precise than similar monikers like 'iron age', 'medieval' or 'renaissance'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the WORST monikers we are stuck with . . . Dark Ages.

It completely misrepresents the period.

GAoP is much better than that!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, it looks like my previous comments inspired a few people to think outside of the box with this, good. I never really thought that we would get rid of the name "Golden Age of Piracy."

One thing that would be interesting to find out concerning the Golden Age of Piracy is when the name first come into significant use for describing any of the piratical actions from the 16th to early 19th centuries? I do wonder if any scholar has done work on Pirate History in Public Memory. Back when I studied Civil War history, I noticed how this concept - looking at how the public memory and perception of history over time that is - became popular.

In the end, if I were forced to pick when the Golden Age of Piracy took place, 1691-1724.

More specific than that is debatable. For the beginning date, when was the first recorded attack on civilian vessels in the Indian Ocean by a pirate coming from the Atlantic World? And for the ending date, I would go with the end of the last active pirates in the Low/Lowther family of pirates. But the problem with that is that Francis Spriggs was part of that bunch, and its not exactly clear where or if he died as a pirate. I suspect that he may have met his fate in Florida in 1725 at the hands of natives, especially when one takes into consideration how sparce and vague reports of attacks done by him get. While there are other acts of piracy that take place soon after in the rest of the 1720s, that doesn't mean they should count in the Golden Age. Robbery as a whole will always be in society as long as someone is desperate somewhere and as long as those same people are capable of making bad choices. Therefore, piracy will always be around - its just robbery at sea after all. If the Golden Age of Piracy is supposed to contain those pirates that had significant ties to one another and operated in large numbers for the time from the 1690s to 1720s, then 1724 is where you want to stop.

Here is a related question, how do the Guardas Costas of the Caribbean that sailed during this period (and were often pirates or at least called pirates by English officials) fit into our definition of the era? How do they fit into our studies of pirates overall? For instance, of all those pirates Marcus Rediker described in his book on pirates and numbered at 5,000 overall during the 1710s and 1720s, does he include these Spanish raiders of questionable legality?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I (who is the practically the only one who claims gaop to continue till 1730 year) need to ask what makes lowther company so specific last gaop "pirate group"? I claim without real evidence (what is not good way to do conversation so don't take me too seriously) we perhaps don't know much about later pirates in late 1720s just because because GHoP was made in 1724 and we don't know much about the networks formed by those later pirates.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For the beginning date, when was the first recorded attack on civilian vessels in the Indian Ocean by a pirate coming from the Atlantic World?

Tricky. The French vessels Rose and Victoire returned from plundering in the Red Sea in 1634, but they may have been privateers rather than pirates. The Roebuck was an English privateer, but certainly committed an act of piracy in 1635 when she attacked an English Company ship. From then on, there are lots of examples of ships with lawful commissions exceeding their terms and committing acts of piracy. Perhaps the first indisputable pirate in the area was the Satisfaction: in 1684 her crew mutinied and turned the captain out, then went on to take a number of prizes.

And for the ending date, I would go with the end of the last active pirates in the Low/Lowther family of pirates. But the problem with that is that Francis Spriggs was part of that bunch, and its not exactly clear where or if he died as a pirate. I suspect that he may have met his fate in Florida in 1725 at the hands of natives, especially when one takes into consideration how sparce and vague reports of attacks done by him get. While there are other acts of piracy that take place soon after in the rest of the 1720s, that doesn't mean they should count in the Golden Age.

Joseph Cooper and Philip Lyne were still active into 1726, but were so insignificant and divorced from other pirates that I struggle to define them as 'golden age' pirates - it depends on how you choose to define the term.

Here is a related question, how do the Guardas Costas of the Caribbean that sailed during this period (and were often pirates or at least called pirates by English officials) fit into our definition of the era? How do they fit into our studies of pirates overall? For instance, of all those pirates Marcus Rediker described in his book on pirates and numbered at 5,000 overall during the 1710s and 1720s, does he include these Spanish raiders of questionable legality?

I think the Guarda Costas are a bit like the buccaneers, they inhabited a kind of grey area where they might or might not have been pirates. Certainly they committed the odd act of piracy, and other nations oftens considered them pirates, but like the buccaneers they usually had some semblance of legitimacy - by definition they held commissions. I prefer not to count them in with the likes of Blackbeard and Roberts because they were so different in many ways: they held commissions, they had safe ports to return to near their cruising grounds, they condemned their prizes in a (theoretically) legally approved fashion, etc. FWIW, I don't believe Rediker includes them in his tally.

I (who is the practically the only one who claims gaop to continue till 1730 year) need to ask what makes lowther company so specific last gaop "pirate group"? I claim without real evidence (what is not good way to do conversation so don't take me too seriously) we perhaps don't know much about later pirates in late 1720s just because because GHoP was made in 1724 and we don't know much about the networks formed by those later pirates.

Most serious pirate historian look well beyond the GHoP for their evidence: trial accounts and associated depositions, newspapers, colonial correspondence, merchants' correspondence, naval accounts, other published accounts, and other similar sources provide far more information than the GHoP, and about many pirates not included in the GHoP. From that evidence it's fairly clear that pirate activity in both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans went into decline after 1722 and was dropping right off by 1725. There were pirates active after that date, but never in the same numbers as earlier and, crucially, never with anything like the networks established by the Lowther group, who in turn were relatively insignificant when compared to the Flying Gang-Roberts-Taylor group. I can't even think of an example of two pirates sailing in consort after about 1725, let alone more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I (who is the practically the only one who claims gaop to continue till 1730 year) need to ask what makes lowther company so specific last gaop "pirate group"? I claim without real evidence (what is not good way to do conversation so don't take me too seriously) we perhaps don't know much about later pirates in late 1720s just because because GHoP was made in 1724 and we don't know much about the networks formed by those later pirates.

Most serious pirate historian look well beyond the GHoP for their evidence: trial accounts and associated depositions, newspapers, colonial correspondence, merchants' correspondence, naval accounts, other published accounts, and other similar sources provide far more information than the GHoP, and about many pirates not included in the GHoP. From that evidence it's fairly clear that pirate activity in both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans went into decline after 1722 and was dropping right off by 1725. There were pirates active after that date, but never in the same numbers as earlier and, crucially, never with anything like the networks established by the Lowther group, who in turn were relatively insignificant when compared to the Flying Gang-Roberts-Taylor group. I can't even think of an example of two pirates sailing in consort after about 1725, let alone more.

Sorry for possible writing errors I just don't bother to do spel fixes.

'

Well you are rigth but still I think that "ending date" is a thing that has actually much matter. Well I would say that significant pirate operation was between 1690- 1725. But for study (of ships, weapons etc) the period 1680- 1730 is the best if you get what I am meaning.

I personally count all western pirates who operated between 1690- 1730 as gaop pirates and that includes pirates like John Quelch who was not part of " red sea men" nor "the flying gang", William fly and Henry Johnson who all operated in americas or other " gaop pirate places" but had not their own networks or significant impact to trade.. and why I use 1730? well it looks better since it is full ten unlike 1725 what seems to me a too meticulous date. And I think that the ending of the period is part of it too and I say that gaop ended by late 1720s or by 1730.

I actually think that late gaop (I say 1718- 1730) is the most interesting and well most "romantic" period since then piracy was not as free and pirates needed costantly be cautious of RN I see the era of carefree pirating as a bit less intersting.

I am not stretch gaop but I was wondering near gaop era piracy

Weren't there also some english pirate activity (and smuggling) of almost same sort than Guardas Costa's and even later than gaop all after treaty of Utrecht till the War of Jenking's Ear when english trasported slaves to spanish colonies? And was that actually so that Robert jenkings was a pirate? At least spanish Guardas Costa ofifcer accused him as a pirate but was perhaps just a lie.

Edited by Swashbuckler 1700

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're welcome to call 1730 the end of the GAoP if it makes you happy. Or 1740, or 1750, or 1927. Personally, I dislike 1730 for exactly the same reason that you like it. History does not happen by arbitrary dates, so for me 1729, or any other year, is just as good as 1730. Less neat, perhaps, less compartmentalized, but potentially more accurate. However, there's no 'boss of the world application of dates to time-periods', so whatever floats your boat.

But as I've said before, what is actually important is not when was the GAoP, but what was the GAoP.

Now, on 13 October 1691 something actually occurred which genuinely changed the pattern of Western piracy in a massive way. If that's too meticulous for you, so be it. My post originally proposing that date was somewhat tongue in cheek, but it's still as good a date as any. After that date things were genuinely different. The actual end of the GAoP is harder to pinpoint, but nonetheless we can identify changes in the pattern and nature of piracy that took place between 1722 and 1725. The changes were more gradual, but they did occur. Between 1726 and 1730 there were no major changes, they had already occurred, and the pattern of piracy remained essentially unchanged until the next great wave of Atlantic piracy in the early 19th century.

Now, this does not mean that all piracy that occurred between those dates fits the pattern of what we might call GAoP piracy - John Quelch's cruise is a good example - but that doesn't make the point any less valid. There was still a great deal of 'medieval' thinking and activity going on during the 'renaissance'.

In short, call it 1730 if you wish, but if you want to convince others that you're right then justify it. In what way was piracy in 1731 different to piracy in 1729?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

'renaissance'.

In short, call it 1730 if you wish, but if you want to convince others that you're right then justify it. In what way was piracy in 1731 different to piracy in 1729?

Yes well not much... well La Buse died while he was inactive pirate but he was inactive does not make it good point...... Well I say that gaop ended by 1730(that makes a bit difference don't you think). But what makes 1725 the end of gaop we don't know what happened to low he and some of his party could have easily active after 1724 who knows?

Anyway I think the "pirate" (and privateer) period was from 1522 (when Jean Fleury made first big assault against gold galleons of spain) to 1856 (when was issued to abolish privateering in europe). In short "pirate" (and privateer) period was during european colonialism but it had its golden age in late 17 C and early 18th C.

Edited by Swashbuckler 1700

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow... you go on a couple years cruise and you miss all the good stuff.

So I'll be late to the party and add my two cents worth... but its probably worth less than that these days.

Anywhoo...

I like Foxe's cirteria, but I will add two more things to the list, though I am not sure what I would break out under the headings

6 Pirates of the GAOP elected to resort to piracy in reaction to the Socioeconomic & geopolitical forces that were broadly affecting Europe/Americas.

7 (and I am not sure of the best wording for this but here is a stab at it) Pirates of the GAOP are quasi united by a similar "fashion" period. Now the arguments can fly here but I'd argue that a 1690 pirate/sailor in his clothing would not really be out of place in 1722... but prior to 1785ish or so, the sailor fashions were different, and after about 1730ish trends change as well. Yes, Justaucorps changed... yes, there was a difference in which fabrics/colors would be fashionable at any specific time along the way, but in the 1690-1725 couldron of fashion that is a lot of overlap as styles wax and wane. You could see petticoat breeches along side of slop hose. Slop hose themselves seem to fluctuate in legnth during this period.. Tied shoes and buckle shoes... buckles of similar size (but GROWING after 1730)

For re-enacting purposes it can be a blessing (and a curse).

I used 1680-1725 on my website... Which I like, so I am using it.

Edited by Gentleman of Fortune

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice ,) but I cannot see the date 1680 as a really sensible starting point. Or did something unusual actually happened then? I found no reason for that. But it is fine but now I prefer 1690(or 1691)-1725.

However this is rather meaningless; it is rather artificial to hunt specific dates for historical periods like gaop.

Edited by Swashbuckler 1700

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now