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Course Category:

Program Start Date:
February 21, 2022

Maximum Participants:

Program Price:

Program End Date:
March 21, 2022

Program Time:
Mondays at 7 p.m. ET


The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were a time rife with conflict and empirical expansion for major European powers as they competed for control of the American colonies. As conflicts between Britain and their competitors, particularly Spain, grew, they faced another major challenge: piracy. Pirates thrived during these difficult times as they took advantage of unsupervised trade routes, smuggling opportunities, and clandestine support from colonial governors. In this course, we are going to examine the rise of piracy in the 1600s and 1700s during a period known as the Golden Age of Piracy: a three-pronged era of organized bands of pirates who terrorized the Caribbean and North American colonies. First, we will look at the buccaneers of the Americas who thrived during the 1600s, which includes major players such as Henry Morgan. Second, we will head east and examine British piracy in the Indian Ocean, examining pirate attacks by and manhunts of Henry Avery and William Kidd, both of whom catapulted piracy into the collective imagination. Third, we will dive into the third and most famous round of piracy in the 1710s and 1720s when pirates became linked together in major fleets. This is the time of Benjamin Hornigold, Edward Teach, Charles Vane, Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read, amongst many others. In addition to these deep dives, we will discuss the origins and semantics of piracy, the end of the Golden Age of Piracy, and how these people grew into popular antiheroes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as Long John Silver and Jack Sparrow. This class will blend discussion and lectures with visuals, media, and texts from primary sources.


Monday, February 21, 2022 - 7 p.m. ET

The Origins of the Golden Age of Piracy

Piracy has always existed throughout human history, but none have been so famous as those during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Piracy, as a menace, became a major subject in maritime law-making in the 1500s under the reign of King Henry VIII. This class will look at the complications and conflicts of American colonization by major European powers, such as Britain and Spain, and the destabilization of the region. These contentions led to the need for privateers (pirates for hire), which only exacerbated the problems. There are no readings or assignments for this class.

Monday, February 28, 2022 - 7 p.m. ET

The First Round – The Buccaneers of America, mid-1600s

This section will cover what is known as the first round of the Golden Age of Piracy between approximately 1630 and 1680. The term “buccaneer” was used as a general term to describe privateers, pirates, and corsairs who attacked the Spanish. Most of these sailors were French who prayed on the Spanish and English as they established shaky colonies in the Caribbean. In this class, we will discuss the effects of buccaneers against colonial competition between the major European powers in the Caribbean. There are no readings or assignments for this class.

Monday, March 7, 2022 - 7 p.m. ET

The Second Round – British Pirates in the East Indies, 1690s

As Britain established itself in the Caribbean, it also sought to open solid trade routes into Asia with the establishment of the East India Company. Thus began the second round of the Golden Age of Piracy. With numerous English and other European trade ships operating in the Indian Ocean, British piracy increased. In this class, we will examine two of the most notorious pirates to plague the British in the Indian Ocean during the 1690s: Captain Henry Avery and Captain William Kidd. There are no readings or assignments for this class.

Monday, March 14, 2022 - 7 p.m. ET

The Third Round – British Pirates in the Americas, 1710s – 1720s

The third round of the Golden Age of Piracy is the most infamous time of pirates in the Atlantic World. After the end of the War of Spanish Succession (1701 – 1713), hundreds of privateers who fought for the British were unemployed overnight. As a result, many of them turned to piracy to make a living. Many of these pirates, such as Benjamin Hornigold, Blackbeard, Samuel Bellamy, Henry Jennings, Charles Vane, and Jack Rackham, were crewmates and colleagues during the war and established organized bands of pirate groups. This is the period when Nassau (the Bahamas) became established as a “pirate kingdom” as pirates grew too numerous to manage. In this class, we will examine how and why this period of piracy is the most infamous as we examine the pirates mentioned above along with other players such as Anne Bonny and Mary Read. There are no readings or assignments for this class.

Monday, March 21, 2022 - 7 p.m. ET

The End of the Golden Age of Piracy and the Rise of the Pop Culture Pirate

The Golden Age of Piracy could not last forever. In this class, we will discuss how and why organized Atlantic piracy came to an end, including how pirates were persecuted. We will also discuss how the end of piracy led to the rise of the romanticization of pirates that continues to this day in forms of media such as novels, films, television shows, video games, and others. There are no readings or assignments for this class.

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