Piracy refers to the practice of confronting and robbing ships at sea, this practice is similar in other contexts such as hijacking. Piracy usually entails acts of burglary and criminal viciousness at the seas. The piracy term can also comprise of activities that are committed on the land, in the air, or in other main forms of water or even on shores. The act of piracy does not specifically entail the vicious acts that are committed in contrast to people traveling on the similar vessel as the culprits. Piracy is the name that generally refers to precise crimes under routine international law plus the name of a sum of crimes below the municipal law of several States. People that involve themselves in actions of piracy are referred to as pirates. In History, pirate offenders have been seized by military personnel and security officers and in the court of law. As long as there has been shipping, robbery and illegal violence has been committed at sea. The term “pirate” has been used as a general term to define what these offenders do, but piracy is much more complex than a broad categorization of maritime plundering. Throughout history labeling ships as pirates was a matter of perspective. Often times one nation’s pirates were another peoples’ soldiers, heroes, and freedom fighters. The purpose of this paper is to explore piracy in the age of sail. The term piracy is a legal designation, fluid and dependent upon what nation wants to deem threats on their ships (Robert 2007, pg. 45).
Piracy in the Age of Sail takes an international viewpoint to explore the domain of pirates between the early 16th and middle 17th centuries. It observes the key events and characteristics in the sector of piracy during this precise era. Pirates in the Age of Sail also analyses the motivation of pirates in and the factors that contributed to them associating themselves with activities of pirates. The Age of Sail also speaks of an era when sailing ships was an essential means of transport. The term is normally applied to talk about to this era in Western countries; the late 1600’s was a period of time of nation building in Europe. The competition for control of the seas between England, France, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands was intense. The New World offered a abundance of riches for the first taker. Sea pirates plagued the medieval and renaissance shipping from the Baltic to Mediterranean shipping although the Baltic and the Mediterranean coasts whereby they operated until the 19th century period of time. This stared with the development of the European s explorers who ventured further afield and came across new types of harassments in the sea also known as piracy. These acts were principally in the Indian and the pacific seas. Enmity between the European powers in their process of curving out overseas empires was considerable provisions of the nucleus of the revival of piracy in the overseas waters and often supported by the European powers. The spread of the Spanish rivals in the Indian and pacific and into the Caribbean that took pace during the 17th century saw a rise in a form of piracy that was more organized in its operations. The Buccaneer fleets weighed down the Spanish shipping, the coastal towns and the main cities. These pirates had actions that were practical in nature. The end of the period of the Buccaneers fleet in the end of the 17th century witnessed the emergence of another period of pirates who were referred to as the golden age of piracy. This period of time involved practical actions in the Indian Ocean and the Southern china seas. Despite the ending of this golden age of piracy, the activities of piracy went on as it was carried out by the non Europeans in the Far East. Despite the police actions by the European powers to end piracy, the activity was not wiped out during the following centuries (Robert 2007 pg. 112).
The end of the 17th century witnessed the highest explosion of piracy in the history of maritime. It is vital to note that the era of the golden age of piracy on lasted for three decades. Despite the Caribbean being the most affect part, piracy activities were also rife off the eastern seaboard of America, the west coast of Africa and in the Indian Ocean. The rise in the activities of the prate resulted from the following; the end of the war between France and the Britain that doomed that the port s were inhabited by sailors who were unemployed and this was a time whereby legal employment was extremely hard. The bi number of pirates who have gripped the famous imagination that functioned during this era plus the emergence and the decline of their previous careers thus looking for an alternative way of putting food on the table on the seas. Piracy during this era was attributed by various factors that are discussed below (Robert 2007 pg. 114).
Lack of a strong government in most of the Americans colonies made the seaboard a hunting ground for the pirates. The advantages of the illicit trade between the local people and the pirates got balanced against the interruption of shipping and the rise in the prices of the insurances. One by one, the colonial governors closed down on the actions of pirates on the seas and this was backed by a judicial stress via the help of the naval officers. In the Age of Sail, the largest source of information that can be traced by to the centuries of the composition of the pirate crew is evidence in most of the records from the courts whereby these pirates were captured and prosecuted. I n a study that was carried out during the 17th century, the case had 700 men who were charged with piracy, out of these men, 75% comprised of seamen. In another research that was carried out in the 18th century, pirates indicate a vast majority had formerly worked on board merchant vessels, privateers or at warships. For this reason, piracy in the age of the seal was comprised of highly experienced seamen who came from various nations mainly in the American colonies. Bigger quantities of the pirates were mostly the black men from Africa (Robert 2007 pg. 117).
The main motivation of these pirates into the piracy is when their merchant vessels were seized and they picked to join the pirate crew. However, landsmen would be killed or put onto dry land, in many cases the semen were left with no choice that to choose to sign a contract and join the pirate crew. This is the manner in which most of the successful pirates started their piracy journey. The other common way of staring the piracy business was via privateering crews to turn for piracy. Becoming privateers was encouraged by men the rise in profits in this sector, the return of peace contributed to a lot of unemployment thus the high number of seamen turning to piracy. All pirates ensured that they carried guns wit them as this was their means of attack. The wars that took place in the 17th and the 18th century meant that it was a basic necessity to arm any sea vessel. This also implied that most of the seamen and sailors were people who were experienced in using the gun at the sea (Angus 2006 pg111).
The age of sailing entails of single but prolonged fight that covered a period of over one century plus a quarter that began with the glorious revolution in the year 1688 and that ended upon the ending of the British victory at Trafalgar in the year 1805 during the era of the Napoleonic Wars. This is a period of time whereby the merchantmen during the age of trading who were armed got replaced by unpretentious warships which had the role of controlling the sea lanes. The tactics of the naval witnessed gradual change during this period overtime and as well as the technology of shipbuilding plus the efficiency of the marine gunnery (Angus 2006 pg132).
The age of sailing is a practical account of pirates who sailed in the seas of the Caribbean and the coast of America during the era of the golden age of piracy that took place between the years 1660 and 1730. It also traces the background of the activities of the pirates in the 16th century and analyses the buccaneer culture and its involvement in the rise and development of piracy at the seas. The above paper also shows what motivated the seamen and the sailors to get into the life of piracy during this era. Most of it as discussed above was the end of the Spanish was that brought about peace. Peace saw a lot of people losing their jobs and thus had to look for ways of sustaining themselves (Dorothy 1999 pg.78). Other seamen and sailors were forced to sign agreement into the piracy crew. The pirates dressed in a different way and were always fully armed. They also used different types of ships that could not be easily noticeable. In addition, they communicated in coded language. Whether seen as victims or villains, the pirates were a significant challenge to commerce and shipping especially in the western Atlantic form a period of more than a century.
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