When we think of “pirate” we often think of a little sexist, open camaraderie and, in the worst case, of bloodthirsty and barbaric beings who have no mercy for their opponents or those who are weaker. In truth, these are a number of clichés popularized by popular culture. In fact, the historiography of piracy is very young as reference research on the subject really began in the 1970s.
In particular, this research showed that hackers were actually much more open and tolerant than most piracy films and stories suggest. We invite you to discover these little-known facets through 10 examples that prove it.
# 1: opening the ranks to black pirates
Unfortunately, the era of piracy was also characteristic of slavery. In the Caribbean, the islands were owned by Spanish colonists and the slave populations grew rapidly, but there is ample evidence that pirates are happy to take on new crew members regardless of their skin color.
This aspect is unknown, but we now know that some crews had a large proportion of the former slaves among their workforce, ranging from a third to a majority of the members. It was mainly former slaves who managed to escape the plantations, or the inhabitants of the island of Eleutheria in the Bahamas, who temporarily established themselves as a refuge for the rebellious slaves. . Even so, stereotypes persisted and many black pirates were deleted from pirate accounts of the time because of their skin color.
# 2: Hackers were staunch democratic supporters
Historian Cristopher Hill, also a world-famous professor at Oxford, divides pirates into two categories: those who opposed the Anglican Church by advocating religious freedom and those who advocated democracy after the English Revolution.
In fact, most 17th century pirates were far more liberal and fair than you might imagine. Far from the stereotype of the lawless pirate enforcing his power by force, pirates elected the captain and quartermaster (who was responsible for keeping order within the ship) through a democratic vote. They also had to share the resources fairly among each hacker.
Furthermore, it wasn’t that the role of captain fell to a man who made decisions. The famous captain Bartholomew Roberts gave the pirates the right to vote to decide on the decisions to be taken on the water.
# 3: The pirates advocated secularism and respect for religions
As mentioned in the previous point, the so-called “radical” pirates had the peculiarity of opposing the oppression of the Anglican Church and at the same time respecting the practice of other religions.
Many of the pirates were Huguenots, a Protestant branch that was persecuted in several European countries from the 17th to 18th centuries. For many pirates, tolerance was therefore a central concept of life at sea. It has gotten to the point that there are reports (which we still don’t know if they are legends or proven facts) of a utopian colony founded by the Huguenot pirate Misson. She particularly advocated religious tolerance.
It would have existed on the island of Madagascar for 25 years at the end of the 17th century and would have been a community that stood up for freedom in a social and economic sense, without slavery, in which the opinion of everyone is respected. Although the existence of this utopia is now in question, it was taken up by the ideas of the Enlightenment many centuries later.
There have been other utopias, the veracity of which has been historically proven this time. Like the republic of the corsairs of the Bahamas, which in particular inspired the game Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag.
# 4: Piracy wasn’t just a man’s business
We often combine sexism and piracy. While it would be wrong to say that gender discrimination (which existed in the buccaneer’s days) did not apply to pirates, there were some respected female pirates. However, it was not without problems. Many of them had to dress up first in order to approach the crew and hope to integrate them.
In spite of everything, women like Mary Read or Anne Bony were able to play sports even after piercing their male disguise. This is not just a generality, and the examples in this matter are quite rare from the 16th to the 18th centuries, in contrast to Viking and Chinese piracy where the presence of women was allowed much more frequently.
# 5: The hackers’ code of honor played a crucial role in the democratic system
The pirates’ code of honor is again a common cliché. And for once, this code is actually true. However, this changed according to the crews.
Overall, this code honors the democratic system of piracy. He advocates the need to make group decisions, share wealth, and even avoid arguments (except in a properly organized duel).
Revenge was also an important part of the Pirate Code, everyone had the right to use force to achieve justice, to stop behavior that was despotic or contrary to the code of honor. Likewise, the code of honor for pirates drawn up by Captain Bartholomew Roberts provided for as a punishment for leaving thieves behind on a desert island. The same fate was reserved for the deserters, unless death awaited them at the turning point.
# 6: No discrimination against disabled people
For once, here is a cliché that corresponds to reality. Eye patch, hook and wooden legs are the prerogative of the pirate. Isn’t this the ultimate proof that hackers are fully promoting the work of the disabled and people with reduced mobility? Far from being treated as an outcast, it was considered heroic to bear war wounds. Amputations were therefore by no means synonymous with degradation on the ship. In addition, they were not on their own, as codependency within the group was evident.
It even goes way beyond that as the hackers introduced a labor code ahead of the hour and a variant of the insurance systems. Hackers had workers’ compensation plans for their members. They received payments that varied depending on the severity of the injury. Compensation was therefore more important after the lost limbs. For example, a foot was worth more than a few fingers.
# 7: Homosexuality was tolerated
Certain piracy codes completely prohibit pirates from being accompanied on the boat by a bride, as she threatens to be killed on the spot. However, that does not mean that this law was generalized to all ships and that love could actually flourish on a boat, be it heterosexual or homosexual.
While the British Navy suppressed homosexuality in the blood, piracy perfectly accepted it. Far from being condemned, it was even formalized through a homosexual partnership, seamanship, which was common between the 17th and 18th centuries.
This implied that the two parties solemnly promise to protect each other in battle, that they would agree to share their income, and that if either of them died, they would inherit the other’s property. Pirates John Swann and Robert Culliford turned to this form of union in particular to formalize their romantic union.
# 8: piracy could fall on you overnight
Far from being a meeting place for criminals, many hackers have turned to this area for various reasons. Not only were they sailors used to smuggling, and the profession was open to different horizons. As we saw above, the crews could be slaves or even lambda volunteers seduced by life at sea, and the pirates were not affected by the inconvenience inflicted on the crews of warships or merchants.
The latter could also be recruited in the event of sinking or looting of cargo ships. Instead of being killed on the spot, some sailors were offered pirate positions in exchange for their lives. But the numbers were not only increased through coercion.
The pirates saw a great wave of volunteers around 1713 when the Treaty of Utrecht was passed. This actually prevented the corsairs from keeping what they had stolen from the sunken ships. Frustrated, many of them turned to piracy in hopes of regaining the legal theft privileges granted to them by the English Crown in 1708. It is therefore amusing to see that the pirates’ former archenemies have turned their backs. Jacket so light … and that the pirates accepted it in return.
#BONUS: Rum was a real social code within piracy
We have seen that hackers can be open-minded in many ways. But if there is one thing they cannot stand, it is that one of their comrades does not drink with them.
It must be said that the idea of a pirate hanging on his rum bottle is as common as the idea of him with a wooden leg. Again, this feature of collective imagination is justified, given that alcohol flowed freely on ships. But more than any drink, be it whiskey or beer, rum was the pirates’ flagship. It was also widespread among many seafarers, be they privateers or merchants.
The reason for this supremacy is simple: it was a widely used drink for ocean freight as its manufacture was secured in the Caribbean. So if a pirate ship boarded a merchant ship sailing from the Sargasso Sea or the Caribbean Sea, there was a good chance that ship was holding rum.
First and foremost, rum was an extremely important good for the pirates’ welfare. This drink was actually used for medicinal purposes. So it has sometimes been indicated to treat diseases caused by damage, sometimes to treat colds, even scurvy.
Alcohol also had a festive aspect, of course, and the social pressures associated with drunkenness were particularly pressing. So the pirates, who had the bad luck not to be seduced by the bottleneck, were perceived very badly, even viewed as anti-social beings. Tolerance has its limits anyway!