Flying the Black Flag: A Brief History of Piracy

Flying the Black Flag: A Brief History of Piracy

Flying the Black Flag: A Brief History of Piracy

Flying the Black Flag: A Brief History of Piracy

Synopsis

"From Odysseus - the original pirate of literature and lore - through Blackbeard and the feared pirates of the Spanish Main, this book reveals the strategies and methods pirates used to cheat, lie, kill, and rob their way into the historical record, wreaking terror in their bloody wakes."

Excerpt

Two weeks after September 11, 2001, when the initial shock had passed and the circumstances of the attack seemed to be clear, I began to consider what I, as an historian, could do and it occurred to me that we were in a situation without exact parallels. Terrorists have operated throughout history, but their ability to attack across large distances with devastating effect and to take thousands of lives is a phenomenon of modern technology, and so an historical study of terrorism would not be particularly relevant to our present situation, but when I amended the question and asked, how should we respond to an attack by a group that is neither organized as a regular military force nor openly acknowledged by any formal government, I thought of pirates and the world’s response to pirates. Who became pirates? Why? And how did nations respond to attacks upon their citizens by pirates?

Pirates, most simply put, are robbers at sea and by sea. By definition, they— like terrorists—hold “no commission or delegated authority from any sovereign or state empowering them to attack others.” Sometimes pirates were just bandits who operated on the water (although they did require a ship, a large enough gang to crew the ship, and sufficient nautical expertise to run the ship) and sometimes they were more than bandits. Whether they operated on a large scale or small, however, all pirates needed a place of refuge where they could refit their ship, sell their booty, celebrate their success—or recover from their failure—and prepare for their next operation. Pirates’ motives are clear—others have what they want and they are determined to take it from them—but some pirates (though their primary motivation was still material gain) had secondary motives—to attack and injure those of another religion, another area, or another nationality.

Members of our government have compared terrorists to pirates and have suggested that the worldwide campaign against terrorism bears some resemblance to the worldwide campaign against piracy. I believe that the struggle against piracy . . .

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