When you hear the word pirate, what image immediately springs to mind? Do you envision a peg-legged sea dog dressed in blousy attire, wearing a huge gold earring and sporting a parrot on his shoulder? Do you picture a vile smelly drunkard who shoots pistols into the air yelling “Yo ho ho and a bottle o' rum”? Or perhaps you see a tall spare man enveloped in smoke whirling about his face, whose long black beard fails to disguise his demonic intentions? Fear not. There's no wrong answer. Any of those images are likely suspects when the subject of classic piracy sails into view.
Those unfamiliar with the history of piracy are in for a treat, because there's plenty of it. Piracy began around 3000 B.C., and over the centuries many of the greatest civilizations known to mankind, such as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, fell victim to relentless groups of pirates. Over the millennia, pirates have evolved into efficient sailors, adventurers, and dastardly thieves and murderers, and they've done so with a style and panache that's entirely their own. Pirates, privateers, buccaneers, and corsairs had several things in common. They all shared a love of the sea, the lust for adventure and debauchery, and an obsessive drive for unbridled wealth. Many of the more successful pirates, like Blackbeard and Bartholomew Roberts, didn't live long enough to enjoy their infamy, but that didn't really matter to them. What meant the most was power and the freedom to do anything they pleased, and they'd stop at nothing to attain that goal.
When studied from an objective point of view, the subject of piracy inevitably requires an enormous amount of thought. For the majority of individuals, it's impossible at the outset not to picture pirates as being swarthy drunken sailors who swashbuckle their way across the silver screen. Upon closer inspection, however, one learns that a pirate's life was anything but glamorous and that many became villainous sailors out of necessity.
Then there's the inherent dark side of piracy, which centers on the astoundingly brutal acts pirates inflicted upon all measure of humanity, from men and women to children and slaves. Piracy is not for the faint of heart. Pirates are criminals, and like any individual who brings harm to others, there are accounts that cause one to feel pity and offer great respect to those unfortunate souls who fell victim to unimaginable cruelty. No act of forgiveness can be bestowed upon those who committed such heinous acts. Yet despite their atrocities, pirates remain a popular subject among people of all ages, and that speaks to their irresistible allure.
In this book, you'll find four different types of tips. Pieces of Eight are facts about pirates, privateers, buccaneers, corsairs, and all measure of piracy in general. Shiver Me Timbers are terms relating to piracy, nautical terms, and pirate phraseology. Scuttlebutts are questions relating to various piratical issues, and Sea Rovers are tidbits about various rogues who sailed the seas.
The study of piracy is typical of research into any historical civilization, group, era, and circumstance. On the one hand, pirates and their careers are utterly fascinating and it's easy to have a certain respect for the difficult lives they led. On the flip side, pirates themselves are an enigma. Yes, they were criminals and consummate robbers of the sea. And indeed, more than a few were black-hearted devils. But despite all their exploits, or perhaps because of them, they've fallen victim to romanticized stereotypes of themselves. It's an irony that's inescapable.
In the end it matters little which image individuals conjure up when thinking about pirates. What matters is that pirates and their stories continue to be told and their lives made known to all present and future generations. Pirates are fun, they're frightening, and they're some of the most intriguing historical characters you'll ever meet.