Blackbeard And The Golden Age Of Pirates

On Valentine’s Day, we’re talking booty —pirate booty—and the last days of the world’s most notorious pirate, Blackbeard.

"Capture of the Pirate, Blackbeard, 1718" depicting the battle between Blackbeard the Pirate and Lieutenant Maynard in Ocracoke Bay. (Jean Leon Gerome Ferris / Creative Commons)

“Capture of the Pirate, Blackbeard, 1718” depicting the battle between Blackbeard the Pirate and Lieutenant Maynard in Ocracoke Bay. (Jean Leon Gerome Ferris / Creative Commons)

It turns out, almost everything we imagine about the classic pirate of the Caribbean – the swagger, the cutlass, the cannon, the booty – comes from one short and period of wild pirate supremacy.  1713 to 1720.  The golden age of the pirate on the Spanish Main.  For seven short years they ruled in a kind of pirate rebellion against class and imperial tyranny.  Brutal robbers who were also, in their way, political revolutionaries.  And the greatest of all – Blackbeard.  This hour On Point:  The golden age of pirates, and the incredible rise and fall of the man with the burning beard, Blackbeard.

— Tom Ashbrook


Colin Woodard, award-winning journalist and author. Author of “The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down.” Also author of “American Nations” and “The Lobster Coast.” State and national affairs writer for the Portland Press-Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram. (@WoodardColin)

Captain Mike Daniel, ship captain, maritime explorer and underwater explorer. Founder of the Maritime Research Institute.

From Tom’s Reading List

Smithsonian Magazine: The Last Days of Blackbeard — “Out of all the pirates who’ve trolled the seas over the past 3,000 years, Blackbeard is the most famous. His nearest rivals—Capt. William Kidd and Sir Henry Morgan—weren’t really pirates at all, but privateers, mercenaries given permission by their sovereign to attack enemy shipping in time of war. Blackbeard and his contemporaries in the early 18th-century Caribbean had nobody’s permission to do what they were doing; they were outlaws. But unlike the aristocrats who controlled the British, French and Spanish colonial empires, many ordinary people in Britain and British America saw Blackbeard and his fellow pirates as heroes, Robin Hood figures fighting a rear-guard action against a corrupt, unaccountable and increasingly tyrannical ruling class.”

National Geographic: Blackbeard’s Shipwreck — “No one knows where the man named Edward Teach, or Tache, or Thatch, called home. Capt. Charles Johnson (who some believe was Daniel Defoe) claimed he came from Bristol in his 1724 tome, ‘A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates,’ the primary source of most Blackbeard legends. Others trace him to a prominent family on Jamaica, or to the Carolinas.”

History: 8 Real-Life Pirates Who Roved the High Seas –“Blackbeard intimidated enemies by coiling smoking fuses into his long, braided facial hair and by slinging multiple pistols and daggers across his chest. In November 1717 he captured a French slave ship, later renamed the Queen Anne’s Revenge, and refitted it with 40 guns. With that extra firepower he then blockaded the port of Charleston, South Carolina, until the town’s residents met his demands for a large chest of medicine. “

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