I blame Disney World for my love of pirate history. I have vague images from when I was three of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and I'm almost positive that ignited my interest. And while movie pirates make better heroes than the real thing, the truth can still be fascinating. To kick off pirate week, let's explore a little about pirate history and the people who made it.
Not Just in the Caribbean
I imagine many of us think of the Caribbean when you think of pirates (or maybe you think Somalia). But piracy goes back to ancient times and covers pretty much every coastline. The Aegean Sea was a special hot spot for ancient pirates (and today is a hot bed of shipwrecks). The Vikings count as pirates. Corsairs from the Barbary Coast in Africa threatened the Mediterranean once upon a time. Farther east in the South China Sea, pirates were so prevalent that they had their own squadrons!
Some pirates are more famous to the general public than others. For instance, Edward "Blackbeard" Teach is infamous for lighting his beard on fire during pirate raids. Mary Read and Anne Bonny are probably more famous than the man they worked under. Henry Morgan may also be a familiar name thanks to a brand of rum.
You may know Captain William Kidd's name. What you may not know is that he started as a pirate hunter and was accused of piracy by the British East India Company while in this profession. It looks like a misunderstanding from today's perspective. But whether he was innocent or not, Kidd was promptly tried and hung, and they set his body up in a gibbet as an example to would-be pirates. Poor Kidd may not have been what he seemed to the government at the time. But it's rather too late to save his reputation now. (We'll see more of Kidd later in the week.)