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Forum LockedWhy did people become pirates?

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Saints11 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Saints11 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Why did people become pirates?
    Posted: 14-Apr-2009 at 18:46
Quite simply that is what im asking, why did people become pirates? (between1600 and 1720) What drew them to it?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Apr-2009 at 20:34
Plunder with a sideline in rape.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Apr-2009 at 22:05

During that period a great deal of sailors were pressed-ganged into the navy; most of whom were men with prior experience of navigation but found themselves unwillingly in the navy. Whenever they had the opportunity, they deserted, and many of them turned into pirates.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Apr-2009 at 22:07
To become a Disney ride-
NOT!!

That question can be as complicated as human psyche. I think the reasons can vary from each individual, their culture and religious beliefs. I think also poverty and illiteracy can also force people to become pirates but even that cannot explain this with adequacy. I was recently reading about the Barbary Pirates and America's conflict with them in the early 19th c.

If you are wondering about the Somali pirates then I suggest reading about the Barbary wars.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Apr-2009 at 11:40
Impressment didn't start (in Britain anyway) until about half-way through Saints' period, after the Restoration and during the Dutch wars, and only became particularly important after the end of it, since Britain wasn't really engaged in major naval wars in the latter part of the period. (It was only used during wartime.)
 
The heyday of piracy came before impressment became a major factor with the 18th century 'world wars'.
 
From the dates 1600-1720 I also assume the emphasis was on the Caribbean, a different situation from the Barbary coast or Somalia nowadays, where the pirates were/are operating offshore from their home countries.
 
In any case no-one was forced to become a pirate[1] since they could as easily have joined the navy or sailed with a merchant vessel, whether they were poor and illiterate or not.
 
Why does anyone take up a life of crime?
 
[1] Anecdotally there may have been the odd individual victim of a pirate attack who was forced to join the pirate crew when he didn't want to. I doubt it was commonplace.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Apr-2009 at 11:48
Lack of control of naval lanes by strong and centralised authorities. In fact, during the ascendency of English piracy the pirates had de facto toleration and carte blanche from their government.

The risks of piracy were outweighed by the benefits, even if slightly so they proved more tempting to men with nothing to lose in an age of brutal poverty. This has been a constant reason throughout history, from the impoverished classical pirates of Cilicia and Illyria up to our own day with the pirates from Somalia. Though, then as now, the main organisers and beneficiaries of these operations were usually well off and received a lion's share of the loot.


Edited by Constantine XI - 15-Apr-2009 at 14:39
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dolphin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Apr-2009 at 14:27
The age-old mix of poverty and lack of centralised policing means that if there is money to be made with a lesser chance of reprimand compared to more 'traditional' means of crime, then there is always going to be people turning to piracy. 


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Post Options Post Options   Quote Seko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Apr-2009 at 16:40
Gun ownership in the US has risen over the last few months. The prevailing notion is that citizens are worried about becoming victims of crime. Crime? We are in a recession.

Let's use that stat and extrapolate. Pirates, guns, and poverty? They are a potent lot. Piracy is a criminal way of attaining what the impoverished currently don't have. Had it not been for traveling by sea, piracy on land would be the other option. We just happen to call that robbery, hold ups, kidnapping and muggings instead.


Edited by Seko - 15-Apr-2009 at 16:42
Copyright © 2004 Seko
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Apr-2009 at 19:50
On reflection I'm uncertain what the original question was asking. Is the question 'why do people turn to piracy instead of other forms of crime?' or 'why do seamen give up legal trading in favour of crime?'

Edited by gcle2003 - 15-Apr-2009 at 19:51
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Prince of Zeila Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Apr-2009 at 23:05
Salaam/Greetings!
 
Saints11, I know that your targeting the 17th and 18th century period with this thread but I hope you don't mind me discussing the modern Piracy issue in Somalia here since several references are made towards it in this topic.

The Piracy phenomena of the Somali coast is recent and prior to 2004, Piracy off the Somali coast was easily eclipsed by the piracy incidents in the Straits of Malacca and other parts of the world. To blame the piracy issue on a simple thirst for loot would be unwise cause your only scratching the surface of the problem, because if companies stopped paying ransom there ships would still be captured.  There are serious grievances behind the origins of Somali piracy and the International community has to address these grievances (such as the plundering of Somali marine by foreign ships/ the toxic/nuclear waste dumping which has killed hundreds of people since the Tsunami struck) or else these pirates - as criminal as they are - will still have a lot of sympathizers and supporters from amongst the Somali population because they are considered the lesser of two evils. The Piracy problem was eradicated during the Islamist takeover(2006) because the Islamists were the most popular group in Somalia(and for good reasons too despite their silly restrictions), it's only after the illegal invasion of Somalia (which btw would eventually result in a Islamist victory) that the Piracy issue re-surfaced in Somalia because the Islamists grip over former Piracy bases was considerable weaker than before, but all of this does show us that the fastest way for the Somali piracy issue to be solved is to include Somalis and as they say: win their hearts and minds.  If the aforementioned neglected issue's were seriously addressed and proper International action was taken to combat the pollution and overfishing of Somali waters then the Pirates would lose support immediately from the Somali population and simply become irrelevant. Invasions and interventions don't work and will only backfire(the last two years of foreign meddling are a good example of this especially considering the fact that the Islamists are still alive and kicking - matter fact they are kicking quite hard actually) 

Here are some good links detailing the problems and issues:
 
Fishermen's fears over Somali pirates hits tuna catch
 
CBC Special on Somali Piracy
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Apr-2009 at 23:14
Originally posted by gcle2003

On reflection I'm uncertain what the original question was asking. Is the question 'why do people turn to piracy instead of other forms of crime?' or 'why do seamen give up legal trading in favour of crime?'
 
It must be because the profits of piracy were a lot greater than earning a living through legal means.
back in the 1600s and 1700s, ships loaded with gold from America were sailing towards Europe; and the temptation of hikacking them was so great even though it carried to risk of being tortured, hanged, or butchered by rival pirates.
 
The reason why sailors turned to piracy in the 1600s and 1700s was probably very similar to why New York slum dwellers turned to bootlegging during the prohibition.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Apr-2009 at 00:57
Don't forget the aspect of official sanction.  "Privateering" by civilian captains expanded an aspect of seaborne power before well-funded navies were the rule.  The privateer was officially (or unofficially) engaged by either state interests or by elite investors - towns/princes/syndicates of merchants - as well as by official state governments such as the United Provinces of the Netherlands, and also by the Spanish provinces of the south Netherlands.
 
In wartime, it was part of maritime strategy "on the cheap."  The privateer put up the main capital (ships, crews) and was funded by other assets (cash, provisions and ordnance) put up by the investor types listed above.  A lot of non fleet actions such as commerce interdiction and raiding was carried out by these mariners with the payoff being a proportionate share of prize and plunder as understood by such "international law" as there was.  Many prominent princes were personal investors in some of these ventures such as Elizabeth I and Maurice of Nassau.
 
Privateers could often be disavowed by such personages if their ventures went sour.  That was "plausible deniability."   The prospect, rather than the certainty, of profit was often enough to encourage privateering by mariners who may otherwise have remained in or returned to legitimate commerce.  If the profit was good enough, sometimes it was difficult to lure all these people back into normal commerce when wars ended for the prince or republic that hired them.  The genie was out of the bottle.
 
     
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Post Options Post Options   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Apr-2009 at 01:17
Originally posted by Seko



Gun ownership in the US has risen over the last few months. The prevailing notion is that citizens are worried about becoming victims of crime. Crime? We are in a recession.Let's use that stat and extrapolate. Pirates, guns, and poverty? They are a potent lot. Piracy is a criminal way of attaining what the impoverished currently don't have. Had it not been for traveling by sea, piracy on land would be the other option. We just happen to call that robbery, hold ups, kidnapping and muggings instead.


This is a good question Seko but you should contrast crime by illegal gun owners vs. legal gun owners. Only a contrast and not if one support legal gun ownership, that is old.
Well then, brothers and fellow citizens and soldiers, remember this in order that your memorial, your fame and freedom will be eternal.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Apr-2009 at 01:21
Many of the somali pirates were fisherman, until recently. Then the fisherman (and fisheries ministries) of gulf and South Asian nations noted that Somalia was a lawless land and they could fish there and chase the locals away,
The Germans also take vacations in Paris; especially during the periods they call "blitzkrieg".
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Post Options Post Options   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Apr-2009 at 01:42
Originally posted by Sparten

Many of the somali pirates were fisherman, until recently. Then the fisherman (and fisheries ministries) of gulf and South Asian nations noted that Somalia was a lawless land and they could fish there and chase the locals away,


It is interesting how they attack ships from Saudi Arabia, Europe, America or any nation. Will Obama send in the troops or is there another way peacefully to stop this?

Back in the early 19th c. the newly borne United States had to send in their newly created navy to stop piracy by the Barbary pirates. In order to stop it they had to send in lethal force. I found an article on this but I cannot find it but this war helped prepare us for naval conflicts in the war of 1812 with the British.

here is another online article:
America and the Barbary Pirates: An
International Battle Against an Unconventional Foe

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/jefferson_papers/mtjprece.html
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Apr-2009 at 01:47
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Apr-2009 at 07:59
Hello to you all
 
The Barbary campaigns were a failure, only a joint Anglo-Dutch force in 1815 ended once and for all Piracy in the Mediterrainean.
 
The Barbary pirate came in a totally different context than the Somali ones. In those days privateers from the Italian mainland as well as St. John's knights raided Islamic shores and captured Islamic shipping all the time (a fact you won't see in most books). Piracy by the Barbary states was opposite privateering just like that in the Caribbean between French and Spanish from one side and the English from the other. Another fact is that there were as much non muslim privateers as was muslims (some were dutch and many were Greeks).
 
None Catholic shipping was never a main target. They just wanted them to pay fees, even though they were forbidden by the Sultan, since by the mid 18th century those countries (the Netherlands, the Brits and then the US), controlled international shipping. Raiding them was impossible so they took fees. Moroccan pirates stopped raiding from day one (in the famous treaty with the Moroccan king in which the US stated it was a secular non religious country).
 
When the Barbary pirates got greedy and the Sultan failed to stop them they had to stop, especially that after Napoleon the reason for wy they started piracy in the first place was gone.
 
In Somalia it began as Sparten said as a way to stop poaching in the territorial waters of Somalia by fighing companies. It worked and paid of pretty well, so well that they began to prey on international shipping (regardless of who owns it and what religion of enthicity they are) in one of the busiest sea lanes in the world.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Apr-2009 at 13:03

There iis some confusion going on here about privateering.

For a start, privateering was only legal in wartime against declared enemies, and even then required licensing by the government (in the form of 'letters of marque'). The Continental Congress issued letters of marque to privateers during the Revolutionary War, even before it was generally recognised as a sovereign government.
 
One of the dangers faced by privateers was that if they had a licence, but took a ship after peace had broken out but before they had heard about it, they were liable for conviction as pirates. Generally, though, captured privateersmen were treated as prisoners of war.
 
Up until the late 16th century most warships were in fact private warships, since the concept of a standing navy of any size was late to develop.
 
All countries licensed privateers, and privateering remained legal (under international law) until 1856, though Prussia licensed some privateers in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.
 
It's true that many privateers in wartime turned to piracy in peacetime, just as the 'free companies' (condottieri, brabanzoni, whatever) of the late middle ages and the renaissance were not always averse to a little banditry on the side. But there is still a vast difference between waging war against your country's enemies and murdering and looting anyone passing by.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Apr-2009 at 13:43
Pirates has existed always, since the first man ride a trunk.
With respect to the particular period between 1600-1720, things started a bit earlier. First, the muslims pirates in the Mediterranean were quite common, particularly comming from the Maghreb. And second, when Queen Elizabeth I blessed piracy and protected the "audacious" assaults of pirates such as Drake, she gave green light for piracy to become a lifestyle.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Apr-2009 at 13:58
Graham,
 
In the years 1585 to 1604, England and Spain never declared war on one another.  There may have been "letters" of some sort held by Drake and Hatton and others, but the essentials of privateering then were, first, that the Queen couldn't afford enough navy to attack Spanish interests in the Atlantic and elsewhere, and second, it afforded important employment (and profit) for....Drake and Hatton and others.  Big smile
 
The "grand strategy" of England's assault on Spain's Atlantic possessions was really not that successful, but one assumes the Queen made enough out of her shares to keep it going. 
 
I read an interesting essay on the development of 17th c. Dutch seapower, and it's origin was in privateering on a very large scale.  IIRC, the major expenditures were always on the army and on fortifications, but commercial interests financed seaborne warfare for profit (including the Nassauer and the merchant oligharchy).  I don't remember where I read it, but I could check it out.
 
Of course "lettres de marque" developed as legitimate mechanisms, but with or without them, the late 17th/early 18th centuries saw the establishment of piracy, in no small measure, as an outgrowth of the wars among the maritime powers.  A lot of them would not give it up when the princes and wigged diplomats made peace.
 
       
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