Pirate Gold and Sailor Gain: Property and Ownership among Pirates, Privateers, and Sailors during the Golden Age of Piracy

Allyson Ropp


The Atlantic World of 1640 to 1730--home to villainous pirates, heroic seafaring privateers, and common merchant sailors--created a society that focused on property and trade. The seafaring men heard the ideas regarding property circulating throughout England, particularly John Locke’s ideas about individual property stemming from a laborer being entitled to the works he completes with his own body. Locke’s theories and others that spread throughout England echoed in the actions of the thousands on men on the seas. Beginning with the privateers of the seventeenth century, sailing men acquired goods through their own labors and divided them equally among the crew into common and private property. Pirates and privateers, based upon the practices of earlier pirates and privateers, determined rules for splitting the goods dependent on their contribution during the acquisition of the goods. Sailors also earned specific wage, but a contract determined what a sailor would make prior to leaving port, regardless of his brave actions at sea. This research project, through the exploration of primary sources consisting of biographical journals, political treatises and legal documents, will explore the differences in attitude towards property among pirates, privateers, and common sailors. It will outline the beliefs of seventeenth and eighteenth century English society concerning property and compare them to actions of the seafarers. It will also seek to determine the types of goods each group acquired, their treatment of these goods, and a comparison to people on land.



Property; Pirates; Seafarers

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