Golden Age of Piracy > First Pirate Round

First Pirate Round

Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration

Background

The first Pirate Round became really popular in the last decade of the 17th century. It was during this time that pirates following Thomas Tew flocked to the Indian Ocean to try their hand at capturing a fortune. One of the most successful heists of the pirate round was done in the 17th century by a pirate named Henry Every in combination with Thomas Tew known as the Capture of the Ganj-i-sawai. While Tew was killed during the engagement, Every captured a ship that was personally owned by Emperor Aurangzeb of the Mughal Empire in India. The total haul was worth about £325,000 but was rounded up to £600,000 for the insurance check to the British East India Company.

In fact, due to this raid the Emperor was so outraged that the British East India Company appealed to Parliament in order to get rid of the pirate problem. This in turn led to the decision to nominate William Kidd as a privateer to hunt down and kill Tew, Every and the like. However Tew was killed, Every disappeared from all traces after 1696 and Kidd himself turned pirate. Kidd even captured the treasure laden vessel Quedagh Merchant because it was French and he was an English privateer.

Another famous pirate on the Pirate Round was a man named Robert Culliford. Culliford was an associate of Kidd and actually gained most of his crew after they deserted Kidd. Along with other pirates such as John Bowen, Thomas Howard, Abraham Samuel, and Thomas White in 1700, these pirates successfully raided the Pirate Round. However the era saw decline after the 18th century started due to the rise of privateering again.

Pirate Merchants

There were two important people that were essential for the success of the Pirate Round trade route. These were two merchants, Adam Baldrige on the French owned island of Sainte-Marie and Frederick Philipse in New York City. Baldridge would buy all of the clothing, food, alcohol, and other supplies from Philipse in New York and sell them to the pirates on Madagascar. In fact, when Baldrige left Madagascar in 1697 it actually contributed to the decline of the entire trade route.

Sailing Routes & Locations

The typical 'Pirates of the Caribbean' hardly stayed in the Caribbean. Even Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach spent most of his time raiding the British North American colonies. The only true Caribbean pirates were the buccaneers of the 17th century who preyed upon the Spanish Main. However as the Spanish Main declined by the late 17th century and early 18th century at the closing of the Buccaneering Era pirates were forced to look elsewhere.

The Pirate Round was a sailing route created by sailing from the Western Atlantic (Caribbean, North American colonies etc.) that led across the Atlantic Ocean to the northern part of Africa. There they would sail down the coast of Africa plundering vessels as they went. Next they would round the southern tip of Africa and sail into the Indian Ocean. There they would target ships in the Arabian Sea and the surrounding islands and territories of the Indian Ocean.

The Pirate Round basically follows the paths that the East India Company ships took as these along with Mughal ships were the primary targets of the pirates. Common launch ports for the Pirate Round were the same Atlantic ports that every pirate crew was picked up in. These included Bermuda, Nassau, New York City, and La Coruña. Next, the pirates would travel to either the Portuguese owned Madeira Islands or the Azores Islands or the Spanish owned Canary Islands and restock on supplies and get water. From these stop over points the pirates would then sail around the Cape of Good Hope and then travel through the Mozambique Channel to Madagascar. Madagascar was a very popular pirate haven and even the rumored spot of Henry Every's pirate utopia called Libertatia. Two frequent pirate havens on Madagascar included the French island of Sainte-Marie along with the Comoro Islands.

The Pirate Round - Southern Africa Map (1670)

Southern Africa Map - Dapper, O (1670)

Madagascar

The main pirate haven for the pirate rounders was the island of Madagascar. On Madagascar pirates would clean their hulls, restock again and make sure all the flintlock pistols were loaded and the cutlasses were sharpened. It was time to hit the Indian Ocean from this stop over point. In the East Indies the pirates took advantage of the relatively unprotected trade routes to plunder colonial shipping and captured some of the greatest hauls of all time.

Mughal Empire

Called the Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire for ample reason, the Mughal Empire was a vastly rich empire in India that was directly descended from Genghis Khan. There were a number of targets along the Indian Ocean that were prime targets for pirates. These included the settlements of Perim, also known as Bab's Key and Mocha at the mouth of the Red Sea.

The Pirate Round - Mecca (1680)

Mecca (1680)

Just like in the present, this was a key shipping lane for the Mughal Empire. This was because the Muslim Holy City of Mecca was located inland on the Arabian Sea and there were many people from the Mughal Empire that would make the Hajj pilgrimage. Other key places where pirates would ambush Mughal and East Indian Company merchants is off the coasts of Malabar and Coromandel. Another common place was the French owned Reunion Island.

After a successful venture plundering, the pirates would usually return to the Atlantic via Madagascar. On Madagascar they might sell some of the loot, repair their ships or wait out the storm season.

Decline

The Pirate Round saw decline in the early 18th century with the rise of the War of the Spanish Succession between 1701 - 1713. This created new privateering jobs for all the ex-privateers pirating around the world and there was less global piracy and more global privateering (whats the difference). Well the difference was the pirates could 'legally' ply their trade and would not have to worry about being captured and hung every time they went into port.

There was also increased protection from the Indian and Arabic merchants that were working in collaboration with the British East India Company. These East India Company ships were also starting to become much better armed escorts and were able to repel many pirate attacks.

The decline of the Pirate Round also parallels the decline of Caribbean piracy. However, when the War of Spanish Succession ended in 1713 the hundreds of ex-privateers left in the Caribbean chose to stay there and raid every kind of merchant. These famous pirates known as the Flying Gang included pirates such as Samuel Bellamy, Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach, Stede Bonnet and 'Calico' Jack Rackham and operated out of their base on Nassau.

The Pirate Round

Famous Pirate Rounders

First Pirate Round

Second Pirate Round

Golden Age of Piracy

Periods

Geography

West Indies

East Indies

Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources