Celebrate International Talk like a Pirate Day with The Golden Age of Piracy

Head_Golden Age of Piracy.jpgAhoy, readers! Today be the day of Talkin’ like a Pirate. Since 2002, pirate enthusiasts across all the seven seas and four oceans have donned their bandanas, eyepatches, and peg legs to celebrate their favorite swashbuckling scallywags.

If ye be worried about lookin’ like a landlubber, a pirate lingo glossary will be (almost) as valuable as gold dabloons.

If ye be interested in learnin’ more about pirates—the historical kind, not the Hollywood kind—check out The Golden Age of Piracy. With twelve other scholars as his trusty crew, David Head captains an exploration of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century pirates, the myths that surround them, and their eventual decline. But be warned: some of these stories are not for the faint of heart. The lives of pirates like Blackbeard and Anne Bonny were not as glamorous as Pirates of the Caribbean makes them seem.

This fascination with pirates is a strange point in our culture. Movies, TV shows, and novels—even those dating back as far as Treasure Island—romanticize those historical figures in non-historically accurate ways. We see Captain Jack swagger around and search for ancient treasures, and we get swept up in the thrill of adventure. The atrocities real pirates committed fades into the background compared to the brilliant (but fictionalized) allure of treasure and excitement.

David Head addresses the push-pull of fact and fiction in his introduction to the volume:

Though pirates were stylized over the years, the fascination with them grows out of the fact that they were real. Pirates really were dangerous men (and a few dangerous women) who sailed the seas in search of plunder. Pirates really were active in the Caribbean, its islands and adjoining seas, in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Pirates really did prey on the lucrative trade of Europe’s colonizing powers. They may not have buried treasure, jeered a victim walking the plank, or found themselves cursed by Aztec gold, but pirates were a serious problem in the colonial Caribbean. People lost their lives to pirates. People lost their lives as pirates. Anyone who worked or lived by the waters of the early Atlantic world had to confront, as surely as they faced the winds and waves, the danger of pirates.

This isn’t to say that you should put away the stuffed parrot or condemn International Talk Like a Pirate Day—yarr, it be right fun at times—but it’s important to separate the fact from the fiction. So, if you’d like to start the journey into what real piracy was like, The Golden Age of Piracy is a good place to start.

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