While pirates have existed for thousands of years, there was a period in time where pirate activity was at a peak. This occurred during the early 18th century when pirates roamed the open seas and were a significant threat to any vessel they encountered. During this time which is known as the Golden Age of Piracy, many ships that traveled trade routes were affected by the high number of pirates operating at that time.
The Origin of The Golden Age of Piracy
The beginnings of the Golden Age of Piracy actually ramped up as far back as the mid-1680s when the last buccaneers were disappearing from the Caribbean. Buccaneers were a kind of privateer or free sailor that traveled in the Caribbean Sea during the 17th and 18th centuries. With a lack of decent naval employment available, many sailors and privateers found themselves unemployed and looking for work. As a result, many of these sailors and privateers turned to piracy hoping to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families. With their experience from sailing, piracy was an obvious choice. In addition, a lack of strong government managing the Caribbean islands and other American colonies allowed pirates to sail free and pillage ships without the risk of any serious repercussions.
Geographical Location: The Caribbean
The geographical focus of the Golden Age pirates was specifically on plundering ships that travelled throughout the Caribbean. In addition to mainly focusing on ships in the Caribbean, the Atlantic coast of the United States, the West Coast of Africa, the Indian Ocean and South China Sea were also subject to a threat of piracy on a regular basis. During the Golden Age of Piracy, the most famous pirates in history operated and gained attention for their requisitions. Some of the most well known pirate legends include Blackbeard and Bartholomew Roberts who were responsible for attacking many ships during and killing countless victims during the early 1700’s. In addition, these pirate legends were also the inspiration behind novelists for several hundred years who have written many stories about pirates, and who also concocted the idea of a pirate with a wooden leg and parrot on his shoulder.
The End of the Golden Age of Piracy
Ever wonder who was responsible for trying to put an end to piracy during the Golden Age of Piracy? The governor of Bahamas, Woodes Rogers, was one of the principal figures who was able to help suppress pirate activity. Under his leadership, he was able to bring order to not only the Bahamas, but to the rest of the Caribbean as well. He brought order by bringing pirates to justice, and many pirates that were found guilty of piracy were hanged to death. Others, willing gave up piracy and retired from the pirate life. Others, left the Caribbean and headed to the Atlantic Ocean to see if they would have better luck there. Regardless, around 1730, due to the increased military presence and international anti-piracy law enforcement, the Golden Age of Piracy came to an end.
While pirates still exist even today, the number of active pirates on the open seas threatening ships has never again been as considerable as it was during the Golden Age of Piracy. It was a time of unparalleled pirate activity that has never been surpassed in several hundred years.