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Golden Age of Piracy

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"We fly no colours out here, but praise the lack of 'em. So let the black flag signal nothing but your allegiance to man's natural freedoms."
―Edward Thatch, regarding piracy, 1715.[src]
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Pirates gathering at the Old Avery in Nassau

The Golden Age of Piracy was an extended period of time lasting from the 1650s to the 1730s, characterized by the excessive outbursts of piracy that occurred throughout several regions around the world, most notably on and around the islands of the Caribbean.

Although there had been two previous proclaimed "Golden Ages", the third and final one ranged from 1715 to the mid-1730s, and saw the rise of several infamous pirates, including Edward Thatch, better known as Blackbeard, and Bartholomew Roberts, known after his death as Black Bart.

The third Golden Age is considered to have started in 1715, with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht between the British and Spanish empires. This rendered hundreds of privateers on either side obsolete and unemployed. Looking for a means to survive, many of the former privateers turned to piracy to support themselves. Edward KenwayBenjamin HornigoldCharles Vane and Jack Rackham were among those who converted to lawlessness.

With shipping lanes established throughout the West Indies, several European powers had colonized islands and coastlines in the area, and began transporting new-found goods and treasures from their holdings back to Europe - prime targets for the new bands of roving criminals. Most pirates profited from looting these Europe-bound ships, usually filled with precious gold and silver or the region's profitable crops, such as sugar and cocoa.

Although the navies of several empires patrolled the waters for pirates, the criminals still managed to plunder countless ships, plantations, and warehouses, as well as the wrecks of ships lost in storms and battles. The loss of a Spanish fleet loaded with treasure is believed to be one of the events that helped to instigate the last Golden Age.

Notably, the pirates who were active during this Golden Age were able to even establish their own short-lived democracy in Nassau, operating without the interference of any European power. However, the fledgling republic was disbanded by the Governor Woodes Rogers in 1718, who was even able to convince three hundred pirates to accept a royal pardon. Some of these pirates returned to service under the crown as pirate hunters, devoted to tracking down and eliminating their former allies.

As the most notorious pirate captains eventually died out or accepted royal pardons, the last Golden Age finally came to an end in the 1730s, although piracy in general would continue.

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