Today I talk with Steve Hahn, Professor of History at St. Olaf’s College in Northfield, Minnesota. He’s at work on a book about several hundred men who in 1718 sought the King’s pardon for piracy at Nassau in the Bahamas.
Our fascination with pirates is a little strange, but probably in 200 years there will be little kids walking around in pinstripe suits with Tommy guns pretending to be Al Capone–and while I didn’t see anyone dressed like that this Halloween, I did see pirates. This long-term interest has, probably as a consequence, led to a lot of misconceptions of who pirates were and what they did. Even eminent historians often seem to think that a pirate wasn’t a pirate unless they had an eyepatch and a parrot–bonus points if they also had a peg leg.
But of course, pirates were just an exotic variety of thieves. And no thief can work without a good fence. So are fences really thieves? That’s one of the conundrums that we explore in this conversation.
For Further Investigation
- Marcus Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea–pirates as proto-Bolsheviks
- Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age–ditto
- Peter T. Leeson, The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates–pirates as highly rational market actors
- David Cordingly, Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates–the best one-volume introduction to the subject
- Robert C. Ritchie, Captain Kidd and the War against the Pirates–a great book