Times, Seas, History and Pirates
At all times they have been active all over the world. There are places where they have had a special importance, in the Caribbean and its islands, in the North Africa
Piracy has a long history
There has been no era in history without pirates. Piracy is a past theme of every era.
The dangerous appearance of a ship at dusk or dawn was a sign, almost a sign of the devil.
Silhouettes of other ships at dusk or dawn, were feared by sailors for the surprise and the advantage it gave to the adversary of being a pirate ship.
Pirates of all times
Pirates of Yesterday and Today, Many islands and places to hide, Caribbean, Barbary, Turks, Christians.
Pirates of Today
During the last few years, there have been some 300 assaults annually on all types of vessels. This phenomenon, known in all periods of history, continues today.
There are some areas that are particularly sensitive to piracy outbreaks.They are usually maritime areas in strategic locations or with numerous islands, and with little economic development.
In these places it is easy to find places to hide and to count on the collaboration of part of the population. Especially when they are poor or depressed areas. Governments do not always have or have sufficient resources to monitor such a large area, nor so many islands, sometimes sparsely inhabited.
In Central America, in its Atlantic zone and in the Caribbean, especially on the coasts of Venezuela and Brazil.
In Africa, in the Atlantic part, in the Gulf of Guinea, especially in Nigeria. And in the Indian Ocean, in the Persian Gulf, off the coast of Somalia.
On the coasts of India, it is a point where many collisions occur, being its coasts dangerous, as well as in Bangladesh.
The numerous islands of the Philippines, and the South China Sea, have been a traditional piracy hotspot.
But the major center of piracy today is in Indonesia and Malaysia. The Strait of Malacca, a crossing point for ships carrying goods between China and India. More than 500 ships pass through the area daily. Ships with few crew and abundant goods.
These acts of piracy affect international trade and force countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia to invest heavily in surveillance.
But the fact of being areas of difficult access, with numerous islands. In addition there is a lot of misery, and a lot of unemployment among the population, it is easy to find help to hide, being very difficult to control piracy.
Many islands to hide on
The Caribbean Sea, Piracy in the New World
Already in the voyage that Christopher Columbus made to America, he encountered French pirates. Something that did not worry him too much, since he already had privateers on his ships.
This is not surprising, since part of the crew of the three caravels, including their own captains, the Pinzón, had been Spanish corsairs. Sometimes they had practiced piracy on their own and at other times they had a privateer’s license, until Ferdinand the Catholic prohibited it and assigned them other tasks.
Piracy in the Caribbean Sea in particular has gone down in history, leaving a romantic tone, which in very little corresponds to reality.
The continuous wars in Europe created an impoverished population, which saw that their great hope of becoming rich was the voyage and a new life after the discovery of the New World.
Desperate, dreamers, noblemen without fortune, to which were added fugitives, criminals, and very dangerous people, embarked for America.
With a strong core of French and English, to which were added people of all nationalities, including runaway slaves, they were the terror of the Caribbean during the 16th-18th centuries.
France feared the invasion
France feared the invasion of the country when it was surrounded by the Spanish possessions in Europe. The Crown of Spain controlled areas such as present-day Belgium and the Netherlands. Also some parts of Northern and Southern Italy belonged at that time to the Spanish Empire.
France, faced with this possible threat from Spain, decided to empower the corsairs, offering them protection in its ports in exchange for a share of the booty.
England yearns for the riches of America
England, upon discovering the possibilities of getting rich through piracy after Drake’s expedition. Amazed by the enormous treasure that Drake brought to the island and delivered to the Queen, she decided to do the same.
From that moment on, she increased her support to the corsairs, providing ships and protection in her ports. Thousands of ships from France, England and even Holland sailed to America. But the small ships of the time did not always manage to reach the New World, due to the thousands of kilometers of dangerous ocean crossing and the two-month duration of the voyage.
With the protection of France and England, the pirates, sometimes turned into privateers, attacked every ship, first from Spain, then from all countries, to steal everything they could.
Not even the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean were spared. Sometimes the pirates, grouped as real armies, attacked colonies as important as Portobello or Panama. In order to achieve their objective, they went on a rampage, torturing and taking with them all the riches of the colonies.
In 1537 the Caribbean was full of French pirates and Spain was forced to create the first fleets of ships to make the voyages to and from America with the help of French pirates.
Even other entrepreneurs with commercial interests dedicated themselves to enriching themselves at Spain’s expense by smuggling contraband with their colonies and slave trade on the voyage to America until the Spanish Crown prohibited it.
They took advantage of the return trip once the cargo was sold and with empty holds, many used to assault and rob a Spanish ship.
The powerful Spanish Crown, the dominant power of the time, could not believe it and had to protect its galleons and its colonies. In 1552, two squadrons of ships were created to protect the oceanic fleet, with one base in the peninsula (Seville) and another in the Caribbean (Santo Domingo).
The galleons full of riches that sailed to Spain from the Caribbean were grouped into fleets that departed twice a year. Protected by powerful warships, they made the trip safely to Spain.
Spain had to send its best military architects and fortify the main colonies. As well as increasing the number of soldiers in the area.
Peace of Utrecht
With the Peace of Utrecht in 1713, the European countries create the problem of the Spanish colonies.
To remedy the enormous problem they have created, which affects all ships regardless of their flag, all European countries unite to combat piracy.
There is already free trade with America, and they are all victims of pirates. England and France decided not to support the Corsairs who had done them so many services, and had enriched them so much. Being one of the most blatant causes of piracy, which had its heyday and continued thanks to its protection for centuries piracy.
After a period of apogee, and after an amnesty, little by little the corsairs and pirates who did not want to give up piracy, are captured and hanged, until they are forced to move to other areas some, and others to disappear. Some time later, piracy in the Caribbean came to an end.
It would take more than 150 years for most countries to sign an agreement to ban privateer’s patents in their navies.
A Continuing Pirate History
The Barbary Pirates of Islam
Barbary Corsairs from North Africa.
The Berbers spread over the present-day countries of North Africa: Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. But they were not really Berbers, they were pirates who seized their ports and picked up other pirates coming from Europe.
From the 16th-18th century they ravaged the coasts of the Western Mediterranean. The Turkish power supported the establishment of pirate republics subject to the Ottoman Empire.
Under its vassalage and protection, they became stronger and more dangerous.
The pretensions of Charles V to control North Africa were cut short by the growing power of these corsair states.
The famous Barbarossa, stopped a Spanish landing on its coasts in 1519, and in 1534 came to take Tunisia, although it was recovered the following year.
They made alliances with France in order to oppose Spain, France gave them protection in their ports and they allowed them to trade in the Mediterranean.
During centuries, all the crew and passengers of the ships that they captured, were sold as slaves, if they could not obtain ransom for them.
They raided the coasts of the Mediterranean, capturing numerous fishermen and peasants who were taken to Algiers. They would raid both ships and towns, seizing everything of value and taking the inhabitants captive.
It was necessary to create a whole line of watchtowers along the entire Mediterranean coast. These towers were mainly for surveillance and protection.
The Turks an Empire in expansion.
The Turks began their expansion in the Mediterranean Sea, with Soliman II The Magnificent.
The sieges to the island of Malta and the conquest of Cyprus, allows them to have bases from which to attack the coasts. This Turkish danger was clearly seen by Pope Pius V, who encouraged the creation of a Holy League against them.
The Holy League was formed by Spaniards, Venetians, Genoese, Sicilians, Neapolitans, Maltese and troops of the Papacy. League led by the Spaniard John of Austria, with 20,000 Spaniards, 10,000 Venetians and men from the Papacy.
The defeat of the Turks, in the battle of Lepanto in 1571, against the Holy League stopped their advance, although the Barbary corsairs in the service of the Turkish Ottoman Empire were able to escape. The discrepancies between the Christian allies, squandered the victory and made it possible for the Turks to rebuild their navy quickly.
The conquest of Tunisia by the Ottoman fleet in 1574 indicated the recovery of their navy and further strengthened Turkish power in the Western Mediterranean.
With the support of the Barbary corsairs, his subjects, and the alliance with France, the Barbary pirates turned corsairs will be the terror of the coasts of the Mediterranean for centuries.
France helps the Berbers
An alliance with the Ottoman Empire, it harmed the whole of Europe
France saw its opportunity to enrich itself and weaken Spain.
By collaborating with the Barbary pirates while weakening Spain. The alliance of Francis I of France with the Turks, besieged Spain. The realization of a first treaty allowing the French ships to trade in the Turkish ports in 1536, granted a great economic advantage.
Subsequently it was an alliance, since it came to battle against Spain, with the help of the fleets of the Barbary Corsairs, subjects of the Ottoman Empire.
For several centuries the Berbers were supplied and protected by French ports. With this, France forced Spain to divide its forces in the Mediterranean in order to protect its coasts from their attacks.
During several centuries the Berberiscos had the supply and protection of the French ports.
With this France forced Spain to divide its naval forces in the Mediterranean in order to be able to protect its own coasts of the Peninsula.
She also had to protect her other possessions in Italy and the Mediterranean Sea from their continuous attacks.
Pirates and Christian Corsairs
Christian Corsairs in the service of the Kings.
The Christian Kings also used corsairs to attack ships and populations in the Mediterranean.
The Crown of Aragon used Roger de Flor to settle its possessions. Frederick II of Sicily sought the services of the corsair Roger de Flor, an outstanding navigator and defender of Messina.
The emperor of Byzantium hired privateers and mercenaries to attack the Turks, when they did not yet control the entire Anatolian Peninsula. In his service, Roger de Flor at the head of the Catalan Almogavars defeated the Turks on several occasions.
Occasionally, ships defending towns in the Levante Peninsular, and pursuing the pirates in their flight to their bases in North Africa, acted as pirates in other towns, with the sole purpose of obtaining a good booty.
The Genoese and Venetians, if they encountered Muslim ships, also acted as pirates.
Even on some occasions, if Christian slaves were found among the captured booty, they would sell them as if they were Muslims along with the rest of the ship’s cargo.
Also from islands like Malta, ships departed to attack Arab populations and ships, especially from the coasts of North Africa.