first set sail on the worlds seas and oceans the pirate has sailed with them.
They preyed on the trading ships of ancient Greece in the 6th and 7th centuries
B.C., the great Roman empire (200 B.C. - A.D. 476) was forced to act against
pirates to protect their grain imports and the Scandinavian Viking ships
terrorized 9th century northern Europe.
1500 - 1550
This was the
period when the Barbarossa (Redbeard) brothers, Aruj and Kheir-ed-din roamed the
Mediterranean. These corsairs were responsible for establishing the power of the
Barbary states, and were feared throughout the Mediterranean for heir ferocious
attacks on Christian shipping and coastal settlements.
In the latter half of the 16th century Privateers such as Sir Francis
Drake and Sir John Hawkins came to the fore to challenge the Spanish claim
to the New World and its riches. The success of their voyages encouraged others
who, desperate to become rich, may have acted as pirates rather than privateers
not restricting their attacks to Spanish ships.
1600 - 1650
end of the 16th century an uneasy stalemate had been reached after centuries of
war between the Muslims and Christians. Stalemate did not mean peace and so
seeking to maintain economic power both sides attacked each others ships and
settlements, justifying this piracy as acts of war.
Buccaneers (1650 -
King James I's withdrawal of all letters of marque in 1603 led to
the replacement of privateers by bands of lawless buccaneers such as Sir Henry
Morgan and the cruel Francis Lollonais. The late 1600s also saw the
beginning of the classic era for pirates with the likes of Captain William
Kidd and Henry Avery active in the 1690s.
Pirates (1700 -
The classic era continued into the 18th century when many of the
most notorious pirates roamed the seas. The two women pirates Mary Read and
who sailed with Jack Rackham, were active between 1710 and 1720, Samuel
Bellamy, the central character of the Quest for a Pirate exhibition, roamed
the coast of Colonial America from early 1716 to mid 1717, and the infamous Blackbeard
was killed in 1718 after two years of terrorizing Caribbean
1750 - 1800
Privateers came into their own curing the
American Revolution (1775 - 83) when hundreds boosted the small American Navy
and attacked the merchant shipping of the English rulers, crippling trade.
Scots-born John Paul Jones daring raids on the behalf of the American Navy made
him an American national hero.
1800 - 1850
At the beginning of
the 19th century the navies no longer needed the help of the privateers. The
introduction of steam powered ships which did not rely on wind meant that
pirates could be easily pursued and caught. By 1850 there were only a few small
pirate crews left.
1850 - Present Day
In 1856 a treaty, the
Declaration of Paris, was signed by most of the maritime nations which banned
letters of marque. Today, piracy has been largely eliminated along the main trade
routes but still flourishes in Southeast Asia and in some parts of the
Caribbean. It seems likely that while seaborne, pirates will survive in
one form or another.