Sunday, November 21, 2010


Unlike traditional Western societies of the time, many pirate crews operated as limited democracies. Pirate communities were some of the first to instate a system of checks and balances similar to the one used by the present-day United States and many other countries. The first record of such a government aboard a pirate sloop dates to the 17th century.

Pirates believed that wearing pierced earrings would improve their eyesight.

They also believed that whistling on a ship would cause the weather to turn stormy.

Pirate Captain’s would change out of their expensive, flashy clothes if there was a chance they might be captured. This way they could pretend they where only one of the crew, and not somebody important and hopefully escape.

Each pirate received an equal share of the booty, with a double share going to the captain, the pilot, the carpenter, the cook, and a share set aside for the maintenance of the ship. Most pirates were paid four times as much as they had ever received as merchant or naval men. However, if no plunder was captured, no one would be paid.

Each pirate was allowed to vote on where the ship was to go or if a colonial ship should be attacked.

For breaking the rules spelled out in the articles, a pirate would be marooned with a flagon of water and a pistol, to survive or die. Because most of the Caribbean islands are mere spits of sand, most of the men died.

There were up to eighty pirates per ship. In contrast, most English ships had only thirty men. Work was evenly distributed among the pirate crew, and so jobs got done faster with less strain than on traditional colonial ships. Many considered a berth on a pirate ship easy pay for little work.

In many cases, pirates wouldn’t have to fire a shot. The mere approach of a pirate ship would cause most colonial captains to surrender. Then the captured captain would try to make some sort of deal that would result in the least amount of death and injuries. This often worked but not always! There were many pirates–Blackbeard for one–who engaged in ruthless, bloody brigandage for the sheer sport of it.

The common currency was pieces of eight:

loss of right arm 600 pieces of eight
loss of left arm 500 pieces of eight
loss of right leg 500 pieces of eight
loss of left leg 400 pieces of eight
loss of eye or finger 100 pieces of eight
loss of both legs or arms 800 pieces of eight and a slave

The captain (like Blackbeard or Henry Morgan) was, in fact, a battle leader for boarding ships and leading land raids. The ship’s pilot, the person who actually steered the ship, was the real captain. He received a share of booty equal to the captain.

The captain’s cabin was open for anyone to use a sort of "den" if you will.

Here are some pictures of modern pirates:


  1. Interesting how there was some sense of order and democracy on a pirate ship. Most people would probably think of pirates as savages, who kill everyone they see. Like you said, that may be true for some, but not all pirates.

  2. I'd love to see what they considered to be flashy and what was casual day wear back then. Enlightening pirate post. Yo ho ho.

  3. i live in nc, and pirates are a huge icon around here. its kinda neat tho.

  4. i didn't know the pirate society was so elaborate in terms of democracy

  5. Nice information, pirates are incredibly interesting


  7. never woulda guessed pirates had a form of currency and everything

  8. awesome info
    pirates have interesting live

  9. I am a pirate
    if you don't believe me, I'll kill you!

  10. modern day pirates are pretty awesome

  11. Of every virtue gives renown to men! Following!

  12. Where do all the pirates go after a hard day at work? To the Barrrrrrrrrrrr :)

  13. Nice post, thanks for sharing this wonderful and useful information with us.