Episode 19: Black Flags, Blue Waters
Updated: Jun 21, 2019
We are fascinated with pirates. Whether it's Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney, the Assassin's Creed Black Flag video game, or Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island, it seems we've always loved the Age of Piracy. But my guest today says the pirates we see in the movies don't perfectly lineup with the real pirates who sailed the high seas in the 17th and 18th centuries.
In this episode, I talk with historian Eric Jay Dolin who's most recent book, Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates, profiles many of the pirates you know and some you've likely never heard of. Eric and I discuss how integral piracy was to colonial America, what pirate life was really like, and how the real money wasn't in the Caribbean but all the way across the globe in the Indian Ocean. Eric then tells us about the explosion of piracy in the New World following the end of the War of Spanish Succession in 1715 and the ways we started immortalizing pirates in pop culture even when there were pirates still sailing the Caribbean.
Key Points in Today's Podcast
Some of the major topics I discuss with Eric in this episode are:
The difference between privateers and pirates
The first pirate to sail off the coast of colonial America
How the American colonies at first benefited from piracy
Why the most intrepid pirates sailed to the Indian Ocean rather than staying close to home in the Caribbean
What "A pirate's life for me!" would really look like
Why we romanticize pirates so much
For the Ever Curious
If you are interested in learning more about the Golden Age of Piracy or Eric Jay Dolin's work, consider checking out these resources:
www.ericjaydolin.com - Eric's website contains more information about his many books, including Black Flags, Blue Waters, his biography, a list of his upcoming speaking engagements, and how to have Eric sign a copy of one of his books.
Books by Eric Jay Dolin
Captain William Kidd
Jolly Roger Flag (1 of only 3 surviving), St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum
Captain Henry Avery
Sir Henry Morgan
Video of the anchor from Blackbeard's ship, Queen Anne's Revenge, raised from the sea off the coast of North Carolina in 2015.
Whydah Pirate Museum - www.discoverpirates.com
"Commanded by the pirate Sam Bellamy, the Whydah was wrecked off Wellfleet in 1717, taking with her the treasure of fifty plundered ships. According to Cape folklore, Bellamy was returning to his love, Maria Hallett, the “The Witch of Wellfleet”, when his ship met disaster in one of the worst storms to strike the eastern seaboard. Only two men of 146 made it to the beach alive, making the Whydah the worst wreck ever on the shores of the Cape. Bellamy’s loss was history’s gain, however, as the contents of his flagship represent a unique look into the lives of the pirates, and an unprecedented cross-cultural sampling of treasures from the world of the 18th century. The Whydah Pirate Museum exhibits much of what was recovered from the pirate wreckage."
St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum - www.thepiratemuseum.com
"After a five years in Key West, the Pirate & Treasure Museum moved to another pirate stronghold: St. Augustine, Florida. Pirates such as Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles who frequented the nation’s oldest city and the Spanish fort, the Castillo de San Marcos, played a major role in the history of pirates and Colonial America. The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum offers an exciting and educational museum experience that transports visitors back in time over 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica, at the height of the Golden Age of Piracy."