Busting The Myths And Exploring The Realities Of Life On A 1600s Pirate Ship

It might not surprise you to learn that Hollywood gets a lot of details wrong. Busting The Myths And Exploring The Realities Of Life On A 1600s Pirate Ship Pirates of the Caribbean/Giphy

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As we get situated in 2024, it’s obvious how much our society has changed over just the course of the past decade or so. But when we look much further back into history, it’s difficult to accurately imagine what life was like.

Art meets reality

We’re all vulnerable to sensationalized or wildly embellished depictions in popular culture that can give us a false sense of various periods. And one of the most notable examples involves the experience of living aboard a pirate ship in the 17th century.

Sure, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise might not come across as a documentary, but it reflects a lot of the assumptions many people have based on other, seemingly more accurate accounts.

That’s why historian Rebecca Simon researched her latest book, focusing on the “pirate’s code,” by studying historical biographies and reports … even though she acknowledged that these were also often “largely fictionalized.”

Obeying the rules

She came away with a clear belief that, unlike the carefree criminals we often see depicted in books and on screen, actual pirates understood the need for a clear set of guidelines.

“You had to be very organized,” she said. “You had to have very specific rules, because as a pirate you’re facing death every second of the day — more so than if you are a merchant or a fisherman or a member of the Royal Navy.”

Simon noted that a well-run pirate ship had all the earmarks of a functioning community with everyone serving a specific role and expecting to be treated (at least by the standards of the time) fairly.

Breaking the rules could lead to punishment, but it was up to the entire crew to decide on a just penalty. And if the captain got out of line, pirates could vote him out.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee January 2nd, 2024
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