Richard Sanders, If a Pirate I must be:
The true story of ‘Black Bart,’ King of the Caribbean Pirates,
5 Sorsby, V. (1975), Discovery.ucl.ac.uk.
Available at: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1349550/1/473433.pdf Accessed 18 Jan.
Francis Morgan, John Sugden, 1990
Pirates, Then and Now:
How Piracy Was Defeated in the Past and Can Be Again, Max Boot, Foreign Affairs, vol. 88, No. 4 (July/August 2009), pp.94-107
To conclude, whilst it is important to mention that piracy in the
post-War of the Spanish Succession era of the ‘Golden Age’ came to a rapid decline
in the later years, between 1713 and 1730 there was another, final surge in
piracy. During this period, the Atlantic had seen some of the most notorious
pirates of all time live, succeed, disappear, die or be killed (Edward ‘Blackbeard’
Teach, Bartholomew ‘Black Bart’ Roberts and Captain John Phillips) and it is credited
to the successful trade of European colonisers and slave owners. The Triangular
Trade across the Atlantic saw a boost in global economies, creating more
opportunities for pirates. However, it was the War of the Spanish Succession
and the consolidation of national navies that increased the number of pirates
in which bothered European colonisers so much, which eventually ended piracy as
they knew it.
During the early
18th century, new laws had to be created in order for governments
and monarchs to have more sufficient reasons to prosecute pirates. To ensure
they had public support, governments and monarchs published new laws and
proclamations, which would also be seen by pirates, which were usually in
London Gazette was a popular newspaper to publish such articles in because it
was widely read, including the more educated, literate pirates. These
publications travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas, where they
were published in more local newspapers. Many pirates’ docks and returning
destinations were in the America’s and it became easily accessible to Atlantic
pirates, or buccaneers.
The ‘Golden Age’
of piracy began to die between the 1720s and 1730s due to the stabilization of
international trade and the founding of national navies. Privateers were no
longer a necessity for countries without a substantial navy, therefore only
served to the annoyance of European countries. Initially, piracy and
privateering was useful for monarch, because it gave them the chance to accumulate
wealth without effort, despite being illegitimate, with only a small price to
pay: the guarantee of or efforts made to secure the privateers freedom upon
capture. However, when international trade became relatively stable, with a
booming Atlantic economy on the rise, piracy only interfered with the
triangular trade system, resulting to the unanimous decision amongst European
leaders to come together to put sudden end to piracy’s ‘Golden Age’. It is
estimated that 400-600 pirates were executed between 1716 and 1726 in efforts
to end piracy.10
This next section of this essay will explore why the surge in
piracy was so short-lived in the post-War of the Spanish Succession era.
Piracy in the early
18th century surged because of the need for privateers during the
War of the Spanish Succession. European monarchs and governments would issue a
Letter of Marque8 to
successful pirates to aid their navies during war, or issue them in secret in
order to achieve something for the country, such as seizing ‘civil enemy’ ships
or discovering trade routes and new colonies. One of the most famous examples
of issuing a secret Letter of Marque would be when Elizabeth I issued Francis Drake
a mission to discover a Northwest Passage from the
Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.9
The time pre-dating the 1730s saw an absence in controlling piracy because of
its usefulness to governments and monarchs.
The third section
of this essay will explore the post-War of the Spanish Succession surge of
piracy in terms of the lack of efforts to put an end to piracy.
The early 18th century in general was a period of
growing trade, giving pirates, named buccaneers7
when operating in the Caribbean, greater opportunities with more ships to chase
across the Atlantic and within the Caribbean waters. With international trade
stabilising, it meant acts of piracy would become more frequent and successful,
yet in far more danger than ever. Piracy resurged between 1713 and 1730 because
of a successful Triangular Trade system, which led to a prospering Atlantic economy.
The Triangular Trade
system, as shown in figure 1, was a system in which the Atlantic economy
prospered. Africans were imported to the Caribbean Islands to work as slaves to
harvest raw materials. These raw materials would them be transported across to
Europe in order to be manufactured. These manufactured goods would then be sold
to European countries and their colonies, but also used as a currency to trade
in Africa when buying Africans to enslave.6
The next part of this essay will explain how the Triangular
Trade system across the Atlantic prospered and how they provided an excellent
opportunity for the resurgence of piracy.
In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht (made up of many smaller
treaties and agreements) was signed by the European powers that participated in
the War of the Spanish Succession. The Asiento Agreement, signed by the British
and forcibly signed by the Spanish, gave Britain the exclusive right to supply
Spanish colonies with African slaves for the following 30 years.5
This series of agreements and treaties encouraged trade between European powers.
The relative peace and cooperation between the European powers meant the triangular
trade system began to take off, therefore creating plenty of opportunities to
commit acts of piracy, leading to a surge in piracy amongst the unemployed
seaman previously hired in European navies.
The end of the War of the Spanish Succession led to mass
unemployment. The British ‘Royal Navy downsized from 49,860 men to 13,475 men,’
in the two years between 1713 and 1715. 4
Although the post-war trading boom compensated for this mass unemployment partially,
by 1715, mass unemployment became an issue. Many of these unemployed seaman
turned to piracy because it helped to make ends meet, as well as offering them
a free, equalitarian lifestyle, rather than to turn to the poor paying and
harsh conditions of the Royal Navy.
The post-War of the Spanish Succession era resurgence was
brief, lasting only 17 years, as it began to antagonise European powers as a
whole, causing them to band together to end piracy, especially of which
effected their trade. The first section of this essay will focus on how the end
of the War of the Spanish Succession led to mass unemployment3
amongst seaman and sailors from Europe and why they turned to piracy.
Piracy, defined as “the practice of robbing or attacking
ships at sea”1,
is an ancient criminal act, dating back as early as the 14th century
However, the ‘Golden Age’ of piracy lasted between the 1650s and the 1730s,
which included three main surges. The first surge was between 1650 and 1680
which was referred to as the Buccaneering era, the second was between 1680 and
1690s and referred to as The Pirate Round, and the third was between 1713 and
1730 which is referred to as the post-War of the Spanish Succession era. This
essay will focus on the post-War of the Spanish Succession era.
Explain why a surge of piracy occurred in the Atlantic
economy between 1713 and 1730.