The Real History of Pirates

Watch The Real History of Pirates

  • 2021
  • 1 Season

The Real History of Pirates is a fascinating educational series from The Great Courses Signature Collection that delves into the world of piracy, exploring its origins, the lives of real pirates who terrorized the seas, and the historical context that shaped their actions. This series brings together some of the foremost experts in the field to discuss and analyze the stories that have fascinated and captivated people for centuries.

The series is divided into twenty-four lectures, with each lecture focusing on a different aspect of piracy. The very first lecture provides an overview of piracy, its various forms throughout history, and the ways in which it has been romanticized in popular culture. Throughout the series, the viewer is taken on a journey through time, exploring the early pirates who plagued the Mediterranean and the Barbary Coast, the notorious pirates of the Caribbean, and the lesser-known pirate groups that roamed the coasts of Asia and Africa.

The series takes a comprehensive approach to the subject, examining not only the lives and actions of individual pirates but also the social, economic, and political contexts in which they lived. The viewer is presented with a detailed examination of the world of piracy, exploring the motivations of the pirates themselves, the factors that led to the rise of piracy, and the various governments and entities that sought to suppress it.

One of the most interesting aspects of the series is the way it debunks many of the myths and legends surrounding piracy. The viewer is presented with a clear picture of what piracy was really like -- the violence, the disease, the poverty -- and the harsh realities that many pirates faced on a daily basis. The series also explores the economic and social underpinnings of piracy, revealing the ways in which it was intertwined with global trade and imperialism.

The series is filled with fascinating stories of individual pirates, such as Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, and Anne Bonny, whose lives and exploits have become legendary. But it also focuses on the larger social and historical context that shaped their actions. The viewer comes away with a deep understanding of the economic and political factors that led to the rise of piracy, as well as its impact on global history.

Throughout the series, the viewer is presented with a wealth of primary sources, including accounts from pirates themselves, historical records, and literary works that have shaped our cultural understanding of piracy. This provides a rich and nuanced perspective on the subject, allowing the viewer to see piracy from multiple angles.

The Real History of Pirates is a highly engaging and informative series that is perfect for anyone with an interest in history, piracy, or adventure. It is presented in an accessible and entertaining format, with engaging graphics and animations that bring the world of piracy to life. The series is sure to inspire further exploration of the subject and leave viewers with a deep appreciation for one of history's most fascinating and enduring phenomena.

The Real History of Pirates is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (24 episodes). The series first aired on May 21, 2021.

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Pirates in Pop Culture and Beyond
24. Pirates in Pop Culture and Beyond
May 21, 2021
Modern Western culture largely depicts pirates as romantic, freedom-loving antiheroes. But is that a harmless fantasy? Examine why scholars insist that the way we talk about piracy affects our world today. As we begin to examine the aftereffects of colonialism, can we afford to ignore the very real impacts of pirates on merchants, coastal dwellers, and Black and Indigenous peoples?
Pirates in Modern Times
23. Pirates in Modern Times
May 21, 2021
While piracy today is more geographically confined than it was centuries ago-and often tied to large criminal syndicates-it still seems to be driven by greed and grievance. Learn about the socioeconomic forces that continue to perpetuate piracy off the coast of Somalia, in the Straits of Malacca and Gulf of Guinea, and in other locations around the world.
Can Piracy Be Stamped Out?
22. Can Piracy Be Stamped Out?
May 21, 2021
If it is possible to make an individual ship fairly safe from pirate attack, why is it so difficult to eradicate the worldwide practice of piracy? Governments in the Americas and Asia have tried to eliminate entire pirate-friendly coastal settlements, but their efforts have never been truly successful. Explore the complex motivations that still attract individuals to turn pirate.
Prosecuting Pirates
21. Prosecuting Pirates
May 21, 2021
While the British judicial system that oversaw pirate trials during the age of Atlantic piracy was highly codified, it certainly wouldn't be considered fair or just by today's standards. But even modern judicial systems find it extremely difficult to successfully prosecute piracy, as you'll learn from the Maersk Alabama pirate trial of 2013.
Pirates in Literature and the Theater
20. Pirates in Literature and the Theater
May 21, 2021
Even our modern-day image of pirates has been greatly shaped by 19th-century literature and theatre, which managed to rehabilitate the image of pirates from criminals into sentimental heroes. Consider your own concept of pirates as you explore their portrayal in works by Lord Byron, Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and more.
Woman as Pirate Commanders
19. Woman as Pirate Commanders
May 21, 2021
Although almost all pirate captains and admirals were men, there were a few female authority figures in the world of piracy-most notably Queen Elizabeth I of England. Dig into the backstories of other pirate queens including Ingela Gathenhielm; Grace O'Malley; Sayyida al-Hurra; and Cheng I Sao, who commanded tens of thousands of pirates in her fleet of 400 ships.
18. She-Pirates
May 21, 2021
Although the literature includes many tales of female pirates, the truth is there were only a handful of women pirates compared to the many thousands of men. When women were on board, they were more likely to be passengers, prisoners, or laborers. You'll explore the exceptions to this rule as you learn about the famous Caribbean pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
Pirate Kings
17. Pirate Kings
May 21, 2021
A few pirates moved beyond the business of plundering to establish themselves as rulers of a territory or to become part of a recognized government. Learn about numerous pirate kings, including the Americans Jean Lafitte and his brother, Pierre. Although they had a substantial piracy operation in the Gulf of Mexico, they fought with the States to defend New Orleans during the War of 1812.
Pirate Music and Performances
16. Pirate Music and Performances
May 21, 2021
While it might come as a bit of a surprise, pirates apparently loved their music. In fact, some pirates kept musicians as prisoners just so they could hear them play. Consider the many benefits music brought to the pirate ships, the musical entertainment produced by pirates, as well as the ballads and melodramas created by others about the pirates' lives.
Life on a Pirate Ship
15. Life on a Pirate Ship
May 21, 2021
While it took talent, toughness, and significant knowledge to be a successful mariner in the Age of Sail, pirate crews tended to be even more skilled than those of other ships. Although life at sea might have seemed harsh and dangerous to the masses, discover the many reasons pirates viewed ship life differently. Were they attracted to more than just the potential for freedom and profit?
Pirates and Empires
14. Pirates and Empires
May 21, 2021
What created the conditions under which piracy flourished in previous centuries and still exists today? Explore the complex relationships between piracy and land-based merchants, governments, and imperialism. Learn how imperial politics in conjunction with globalized pressures on local markets provide fertile ground for piracy.
Pirates as Explorers
13. Pirates as Explorers
May 21, 2021
Historically, pirates and privateers were often the first people from their home nations heading into uncharted waters, returning home with valuable charts, logs, and geographic information-as well as stolen market goods and coins. Uncover the convoluted reality behind the adventures of Francis Drake, William Dampier, and others.
Piracy in the China Seas
12. Piracy in the China Seas
May 21, 2021
In the early 1800s, just as piracy was on the decline in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, it was exploding in Asia as Europeans, Arabs, Persians, Filipinos, and many others vied for access to the Chinese markets. See how Cheng I and Cheng I Sao organized a vast and well-organized system of piracy, unlike the piratical chaos of the Caribbean.
The Red Sea Men of the Pirate Round
11. The Red Sea Men of the Pirate Round
May 21, 2021
The pirate round was a sailing route that took pirates from the western Atlantic, around Africa's southern tip into the Indian Ocean, and even north into the Red Sea with all its geopolitical complexities. Learn about The Rhode Island Rover Thomas Tew, Henry Every, and others-as well as their relationships with the British East India Company and the North American slave trade.
The Buccaneers of America
10. The Buccaneers of America
May 21, 2021
In the West Indies, the English and French governments encouraged piracy (called buccaneering in that area) as a strategy to weaken the Spanish. Learn about the most famous buccaneer of all, the Welshman Henry Morgan, whose extreme exploits from Venezuela to Panama to Jamaica contributed to our concepts of piracy in popular culture today.
The Corsairs of the Maghreb
9. The Corsairs of the Maghreb
May 21, 2021
The privateers of the northern African coast, called corsairs, were commissioned by their governments to make war primarily against non-Muslims and did not consider themselves to be pirates-although the English certainly thought of them that way. Learn why the English eventually found it easier to negotiate with the Barbary powers than to fight the corsairs at sea.
The Sea Dogs of Elizabeth I
8. The Sea Dogs of Elizabeth I
May 21, 2021
The privateers and pirates at the time of England's Queen Elizabeth I-known in Spain as The Pirate Queen-thrived because they could fairly easily find merchants with whom to trade and politicians to protect them. Discover the individual histories of the most famous, ambitious, and wealthiest of the Sea Dogs-John Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, and Sir Walter Ralegh.
Pirates and Enslavement
7. Pirates and Enslavement
May 21, 2021
Pirates often let their captives go. After all, many pirates were mutineers themselves, and they certainly knew what could go wrong with too many unhappy captives on a ship. But did that prisoner release also apply to Indian and African men-or just to Europeans? Reveal the deep and complex relationships between pirates and enslavers.
Pirate Freedom Fighters
6. Pirate Freedom Fighters
May 21, 2021
While it was a common tale that pirates were motivated to revolt against cruel masters and a desire to spread democratic principles, the complex truths of piracy and the pirate life were much different. What were the real goals of those pirates who attacked and overthrew maritime powers? And how did the pirate motto, A merry life and a short one, come to be?
Buried Treasure and Pirate Economics
5. Buried Treasure and Pirate Economics
May 21, 2021
Acquiring loot in one form or another was, and still is, a key part of pirate life. But very few would ever hit it big or try to bury their treasure on a deserted island. Explore the business aspect of piracy-incentive pay, expenses, and insurance-the few aspects of life pirates could control. Piracy was a "no prey, no pay" system, and the risk of no pay was very real.
Pirate Attacks and Tactics
4. Pirate Attacks and Tactics
May 21, 2021
What did pirates want? Money-or anything they could turn into money. Consequently, they usually wished for a speedy surrender, didn't particularly want a battle, and rarely sunk the ships they captured. Consider the many tactics pirates used to apprehend their prey in the age of sails, from understanding the weather gage to deceptive flag practices.
Real Pirates of the Caribbean
3. Real Pirates of the Caribbean
May 21, 2021
In the 16th century, the Spanish had the largest European presence in the Caribbean. Learn how that power hold was broken and which nationalities joined in the subsequent piratical free-for-all. How do we know what happened there? Discover the historical importance of Alexander Exquemelin's Buccaneers of America and A General History of the Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson.
Pirate Facts and Fictions
2. Pirate Facts and Fictions
May 21, 2021
Examine popular pirate legends, and discover which aspects include some truth and which contain none at all. While much of the information we have about pirates and piracy comes from fiction as opposed to historical texts, pirate literature can teach us a lot about the jolly roger, gold-filled treasure chests, the pirate Edward Thatch (also known as Blackbeard), and more.
What is a Pirate?
1. What is a Pirate?
May 21, 2021
Explore the reasons piracy has endured from ancient times until today, and why it is so difficult to both define and eradicate. How do we understand the rule of law and the rights of nations and individuals-not only on the high seas, but in other borderless realms stretching from cyberspace to outer space? #History
Where to Watch The Real History of Pirates
The Real History of Pirates is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch The Real History of Pirates on demand at Apple TV Channels and Amazon Prime and Amazon.
  • Premiere Date
    May 21, 2021