Who were the dreaded pirates?
Many adventurers came from Europe and too many, both sailors and pirates, perished in the attempt to reach America. Who became pirates?
Route between Africa and the New World
A hard journey full of dangers and diseases, from Europe or Africa to America.
People with no future
Fed up with poverty and the abuses of European landowners, since most of them lived in a rural environment, many moved to the New World.
They sought riches at any price
And sometimes also freedom
The caravels were a revolution in shipbuilding, because of their advantages.
At the time of the discoveries, the most common were the caravel and nao.
The first pirates also used caravels, because they were faster
Most of them moved from Europe and too many did not reach America.
There were not only criminals and persecuted by the justice of their countries, adventurers and people with no future.
The situation of great misery in Europe
America, the hope of delinquents, slaves and desperate people
The continuous wars that ravaged Europe for centuries caused a large part of the population to suffer hunger and great hardship.
The discovery of America, with its great riches and a whole new world to explore, brought hope to this population.
In countries like England, rural and undeveloped at the time, the solution was to send the entire surplus population off the island. This was difficult, because the news of the great treasures that the Spanish ships in America were getting and bringing back had spread throughout Europe.
Seekers of booty in a fast way
What did the pirates do?
Some were looking for the easiest way to get rich and others for survival. Some because they had fled from places where they lived in misery.
Islands and fabulous treasures
The Pirates with their ships and their paradisiacal islands, together with treasures with gold and silver would be associated forever and some of them buried by the islands of the Caribbean Sea.
Faced with a miserable life in Europe and a possible life of riches, a whole stream of adventurers followed the premise of “a short but satisfying life”.
And thousands of them set sail for America, despite the horrendous conditions of life aboard a ship sailing the sea.
Thieves of the sea
They dreamed of boarding a ship
There have always been pirates, but trade with America and the opening of new routes that crossed the entire known planet favored their number even more.
Thieves, adventurers, runaway slaves, etc. took to the sea in search of the huge ships laden with treasure and exotic goods.
Capturing the great ships, especially those returning from America or Asia, was the dream of all pirates.
Sometimes majestic ships that showed all their wealth even in the ornamentation of their sterns, sailed the seas guarded by pirates.
Countries, provenance and piracy
French in the Caribbean
France tries to colonize
FRANCE : Jean Frorin’s capture of the Spanish galleon with Montezuma’s treasure made many Frenchmen want to emulate his feat. To be able to get rich easily with a lucky boarding was their dream. Many Frenchmen take their ships to travel to the Caribbean.
A group of adventurers, mostly French, settled on the island of Hispaniola. Initially they dedicated themselves to hunting wild boars, pigs and cattle that lived in freedom. They prepared smoked meat for sale to the galleons.
However the expulsion of these by the Spaniards, made that part of them dedicated themselves to piracy, either as pirates or corsairs of the Caribbean.
In the island of Jamaica the main city was Port Royal and Spanish Town.
England tried to enter America.
But it had to be content with some islands of no special interest to Spain.
The island of Jamaica passed to England and to prevent Spain from recovering it, they supported pirates and corsairs.
English from Jamaica and Bahamas
England tries to gain a foothold
ENGLAND : Drake’s exploits with the capture of the Pacific Galleon and its fabulous treasure, created thousands of imitators who in successive expeditions set sail for the Caribbean.
The island of Jamaica, administered by England, admitted any pirate or not, who helped in the fight against Spanish sovereignty in the Caribbean. Giving protection, and turning its capital Port Royal, in a real nest of pirates, with their ships to protect the island.
Dutch in the Antilles
The appearance of an island was the big news for the crew.
The islands of the Antilles were occupied by the Dutch.
Holland wants new territories where to install factories
HOLLAND : It had suffered from the Spanish occupation. To the rancor towards Spain, commercial interests were added. They started with smuggling and later with the installation of factories. But in order to finance all this, they also became privateers.
The establishment of English, French and Dutch colonies were used by the pirates as repair and supply centers for their ships.
Pirate shelters from where they prepared to attack the galleons.
Seafarers by force
A calm sea was almost a party because of the absence of risks.
The pirates used very fast ships, speed above all.
No choice, recruited by force
It is said that life on board a ship of that time was like being practically in a prison because of the miserable conditions in which they lived and died.
Overcrowding of many people in the small surface of the ship, lack of sanitation and hygiene, scarce and monotonous food when it was available, rationing in case of scarcity, etc. And an excessive and cruel discipline.
It must be taken into account that most of the sailors were recruited by force. That is why terror was applied to avoid mutinies.
Subhuman conditions, corporal punishments, etc., were continuously used. It was the only way to maintain order and discipline.
It is not surprising that if a ship was captured by pirates, some of the crew members joined them, since it improved their living conditions, even if only for a period of time.
From honest sailors to pirates
Forced recruitments in ports
In some countries, especially in England, the harshness of marine life and the many dangers of the sea meant that there was a shortage of sailors to crew and maintain the ships. This was solved by the abduction of young men from seaports.
This forced recruitment turned many young men into sailors through the carelessness of a night of revelry in the taverns of the ports.
Many had to devote their lives to the sea out of obligation. They began their relationship with the sea by waking up on a ship in the middle of the sea without the possibility of setting foot on their land again for a long time or perhaps never.
At other times, people fleeing from the abuses of the nobles in the countryside and the harsh living conditions, saw in the sea a way out of their problems, which turned out to be much worse than they expected.
The conditions in which they lived on these ships, lack of freedom, constant punishments, poor and scarce food, made them think continually of fleeing and changing their lives. For this reason, many became pirates when they saw the advantages of this life.
The pirates, aware of this situation, when they took possession of a ship, recruited the strongest and most capable sailors among their crew, to replace their casualties in the boardings.
Fugitives from justice
In the beginning, buccaneer pirates surprised by attacking supply boats.
At first the buccaneers acted from land.
They sought refuge on the islands and practiced piracy.
Not only the living conditions induced to become a pirate.
All kinds of delinquents and friends of the unwanted, attracted by the innumerable notaries of the
Slave traders had no scruples and crammed Africans onto ships
Black Africans were transported in piles.
Many of the African slaves piled on slave ships died on the way to America.
A large number of Africans were taken to America to work on the plantations of all kinds there.
Despite the efforts of some members of the Church to improve the lives of the slaves, conditions were appalling.
At a time when it was still debated whether Africans had souls, it was not normal to treat them as people.
To live in miserable conditions, or to become pirates, with a possibly shorter but better life.
Slaves who managed to escape, only had the possibility of hiding in remote places.
When they became pirates, they were treated as equals in ship life, since they shared the same living conditions and were companions in the struggle. It is estimated that at that time at least a quarter of the pirates were of African origin.
On the other hand, by capturing slave ships, for some of the Africans to be able to join the pirates was a great opportunity, if we compare with the miserable life they would lead from that moment on in a plantation.
Kings and Pirates
Kings who fostered the Corsairs
Although kings and pirates are always mentioned, in reality they were kings and corsairs, since the former supported the latter with royal protection.
This association gave the pirates protection and allowed them to obtain supplies, and sometimes they even had the status of a royal navy.
The kings benefited from part of the booty and many kings treated their prominent privateers as real heroes.
English kings such as Henry III, who in the 13th century granted the first privateering patents, stood out. Elizabeth I encouraged it in the 16th century and her support for the famous Francis Drake brought her great wealth.
Or in the 18th century, King George III became famous for his distribution of privateering patents.
Thanks to the corsairs, the kings achieved so much wealth that they did not hesitate to reward the most outstanding ones with titles as important as Lord and to pay them their corresponding tributes.
Pirates en route
From Europe to America
In search of Spanish galleons laden with riches
Pirates were looking for ships laden with riches, and the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus provided them with one of the best routes. Places that looked like Paradise, Freedom, Refuges, Gold, Silver, etc.
The kingdom of Spain not only discovered new lands, but also found something that was the dream of every pirate or corsair, huge amounts of gold and silver.
For centuries there was a traffic of ships to Europe of galleons loaded with enormous riches. These ships, mainly Spanish, were provisioned in the Caribbean before setting sail for Europe.
During these centuries these galleons were chased from their departure from the Caribbean Sea to their arrival in Spain.