Pirates & Privateers

Sources · Blackbeard · Drake · Gráinne O'Malley · Captain Kidd
[Picture - A Pirate Ship] The romantic pirates, buccaneers, and privateers we grew up on may bear little resemblance to the reality, yet the myth that was born of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island remains compelling. Here is a guide to both facts and fiction on the net:

Early Texts

A General History of the Pyrates, 1724, and The History Of The Pyrates, 1728, by Captain Charles Johnson, as searchable text and facsimile images of early printings, at the Beaufort County section of the North Carolina History and Fiction Digital Library web site at East Carolina University. New !

The 1932 assertion by John Robert Moore that "Captain Johnson" is really Daniel Defoe was demolished (to use David Cordingly's term) by P. N. Furbank and W. R. Owens in The Canonisation of Daniel Defoe (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988).


Treasures of the Pirate Ship Whydah in Provincetown, Massachusetts, is a public display of artifacts from the first pirate ship ever salvaged. Commanded by pirate captain Samuel Bellamy, the Whydah sank off the coast of Massachusetts in 1717. The site includes articles on the excavations.
The Lives of Mary Read and Anne Bonny, the most notorious female pirates, from A General History of the Pyrates.
An Act for the Restraining and Punishing of Privateers & Pirates (1681), at the Connecticut River Museum site.
The New England Pirate Museum site includes educational materials for various grade levels.
Beej's Pirate Image Archive includes maps, documents, and public domain portraits.


The Adventures of Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, as HTML, from Project Gutenberg.

Peter and Wendy, at Fireblade.
The Robert Louis Stevenson page at the University of South Carolina includes links to online versions of Kidnapped and Treasure Island, arguably the most influential book on pirates ever written.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson at the Literature Network.
The Robert Louis Stevenson Home Page, edited by Richard Drury at the Università degli Studi di Bergamo, has notes on Stevenson's life and works, links to electronic texts, museum and library collections, and critical works.
Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates at the University of Virginia.
Wolves of the Sea, Being a Tale of the Colonies From the Manuscript of One Geoffry Carlyle, Seaman, Narrating Certain Strange Adventures Which Befell Him Aboard the Pirate Craft "Namur", by Randall Parrish, 1918.
Blackbeard, Or, The Pirate Of The Roanoke: A Tale Of The Atlantic by B. Barker, Esq., 1847, and Kate Bonnet: the Romance of a Pirate’s Daughter by Frank R. Stockton, 1902, also at the North Carolina History and Fiction Digital Library. New !

The One Essential Reference

Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates by David Cordingly (UK: Little, Brown, 1995; US: Random House, 1995. ISBN 0-679-42560-8). An astonishly even-handed book that puts the historical facts of piracy in proper perspective, while addressing the parallel evolution of the romanticized pirate of fiction, film, and storybook. [PKM]

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3 July 2004